At this time of year it is usual for County Councillors to produce an annual report for the Parish Councils and residents of their Division. I thought it might be useful if I put my report on the Blog this year so that everyone in the Clavering Division would be able to read it.
My year as Chairman of the County Council came to an end about 12 months ago, it seems like five minutes. On my return to day-to-day work as a councillor, I have been appointed to two Overview and Scrutiny Panels; Childrens’ Services and Corporate Resources.
In general terms, this must be one of the best years for the County Council (CC) since I first became a member in 2001. At the start of this four-year term it was clear that we would have to save a considerable amount of money. The economic situation in the country was dire and that reflected right down to local authorities. The Council set about looking for efficiencies, and with a business which produces nothing if is clear that efficiencies meant reducing our labour force and cutting out bureaucracy. In including schools the CC employs about 27,000 full time equivalent posts. Nobody can enjoy making people redundant, but there was no alternative if Council Tax were not to increase year on year.
Last year we reduced our expenditure by some £60 million; this is on top of the £44 million savings last year, last year April 2011) and this year (April 2012) we have not increased our share of the Council Tax you pay. We have streamlined services, obtained grants from central Government and kept our Council Tax promise; and I can confirm that we are on track for another year on no Council Tax increase next year (April 2013) and hopefully the year after that, however, that is not a promise at present.
We have done our best to look after the vulnerable in our County, by changing the method of funding care to “Personal Budget” which people can use to purchase care from alternative sources and for a variety of packages to suit their needs. Whilst some day centres have been closed, alternative arrangements have been made where these are required. We have always provided money for “Looked after Children”, many of these children are cared for outside of Norfolk. We will be upgrading our care and bringing children back into Norfolk where this is appropriate.The EDP on Monday 3rd April 2012 detailed much of the CC achievements and some aspirations. Amongst the aspirations are:- Seeking support from Gov to dual the A47, having, at last, got the go ahead to dual the A11. We believe a third river crossing at Gt Yarmouth will considerably help the economy in our County. We have been campaigning for a Better Broadband provision, – some areas have less than 2M/sec; we want as much as 35M/sec in our business centres and never less than 8M/sec on total County coverage. We are working with Abellio to improve our train services, “London in 90″ is the aspiration.To move to what we have achieved:- We have obtained a grant from Gov to build a Northern By-pass for Norwich from the A47 at Postwick to the A140 Aylsham Rd; we will be adding a further £10million to extend this to the Fakenham Rd. we have agreed to enlarge the Hethel Engineering Centre to create an Advanced Manufacturing Centre. The existing centre is full, and has helped to start many new companies with more than 200 new full-time jobs. We are providing £4.5 million to support 500 apprentices in the County and £200,000 to encourage business start-ups; £891,000 to support 81 apprentices in the Norse Group, a wholly owned by the CC, service company working up and down the country for many other local authorities. (Even the Leader of the Labour group supported these aspirations in the paper on April 3rd.)
Locally, I attend as many Parish Council meetings as I can, to hear from local representatives of their concerns and aspirations.
Currently, I am supporting Haddiscoe “Stopit” campaign, to try to prevent a gravel extraction site p
roposal which is far too intrusive in the village. The waste landfill site at Aldeby is currently scheduled to close in August 2012, now there is a proposal to extend that to 2018 to finish the “Restoration” of the site. This seems far too long to do this work and it should be possible to complete the process much sooner. I will be supporting the Parish when this comes to Committee.
Speeding in our rural villages is a continual problem, I am working with other agencies to see what can be done, but sadly, lack of funds make this very difficult. DRIVERS MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.
£3.5 million has been set aside for improvements to our roads, to repair the damaged roads and footways. Damaged by the ravages of the last two winters. And £300,000 for additional road surface treatment.
Last year I supported the Armed Forces as Chairman of the Council, the CC has signed a Covenant with the armed services. To assist them in their return to civilian life, to provide support to families when they are away from their bases. We will provide Blue Badge parking passes, without charge for any service man or woman injured or wounded in the course of their duties. Hopefully there will be more news about this next month, which I can’t share with you now.
When the Light Dragoons return from their tour of duty in Afghanistan, we will offer them a Civic Reception in County Hall. The Covenant includes an agreement for a Hero’s welcome Scheme, which encourages businesses to promise service men and women a warm welcome.
But, this time next year, because of changes in the local political make-up and method of selection of candidates for election, which means all seats are up for grabs, which I do not support. Not to mention my own advancing age, I will be standing down at the end of this term in 2013 and not seeking re-election.
Thank you all, for giving me the opportunity of representing you. Thank you to the Parish Councils, Members and Clerks who have always been very helpful and kept me in touch with local issues.
Tony Tomkinson, County Councillor for the Clavering Division.