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Lack of cash and conflict loom as Norfolk councils face continued tough times

PUBLISHED: 09:12 27 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:12 27 December 2017

People using parts of the NDR that are open to traffic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

People using parts of the NDR that are open to traffic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

In the first of a series looking at the year gone by in several key areas, Dan Grimmer puts the focus on local government.

A shake-up could be on the cards for Norfolk councils in 2018. Picture: ANTONY KELLY A shake-up could be on the cards for Norfolk councils in 2018. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Cash, or the lack of it, dominated local government in Norfolk in 2017 - and will continue to do so over the next 12 months.

Norfolk County Council is consulting over cuts and savings as it wrestles with ways to plug a £125m funding gap - including potential cuts to bus subsidies, gritting and road maintenance.

The latest wave of cuts proposals comes after the council agreed £44m of savings, mainly in the back office, in February.

But councillors voted in December to increase their allowances - sparking anger.

Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives. Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Cash also loomed large over the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, with the cost of that 12.5 mile road now estimated to come in at £205m.

Extra money had to be added to the £179m budget for the road, which should fully open in 2018.

There was brighter news with the announcement that the Great Yarmouth Third River Crossing would get £98m.

Politically, the year saw the Conservatives tighten their grip on County Hall, with UKIP and the Greens wiped out.

But it’s been a tough few months for Tories at North Norfolk District Council, with eight councillors quitting since June.

The repercussions of the county (or at least some of it) saying no to a devolution deal at the back end of 2016 continue to be felt.

Broadland and South Norfolk councils are exploring sharing of services, while county council leader Cliff Jordan mooted a revival of unitary status.

Mr Jordan’s suggestion did not go down well among the councils which would disappear if that happened.

And fissures appeared in the relationship between Broadland, South Norfolk and Norwich over where thousands of homes should be built.

The Labour controlled city had worked with its Conservative led neighbours through the Greater Norwich Development Partnership to draw up a 2011 blueprint for where homes should be built.

But, with more homes needed, 2017 saw conflict between City Hall leader Alan Waters and his Broadland and South Norfolk counterparts Andrew Proctor and John Fuller over where more homes should be built - whether there should be more dispersal in rural areas or focus around Norwich.

With the public asked for views from next month, expect that issue to rear its head once again in 2018.

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