'Everyone's suffering' - Row over council's £20m 'levelling up' bid

Great Yarmouth Town Hall, Trevor Wainwright and Carl Smith

Great Yarmouth Borough Council's Labour opposition leader Trevor Wainwright (upper inset) argued with Conservative council leader Carl Smith (lower inset) about how effective the 'levelling up' fund would be. Background: Great Yarmouth Town Hall. - Credit: Brittany Woodman/Ella Wilkinson

Councillors in Great Yarmouth have taken the final step towards seeking £20m of government funds to spruce up the town’s North Quay area - but a row broke out over how effective the money will be. 

The borough council agreed at a meeting on Thursday, July 21 to invest £2.2m of its own funding as part of its bid for £20m from the government’s ‘levelling up’ pot of money. 

Some £3m of the money requested would be spent on upgrading the railway station, “to provide a real sense of arrival” the council says and to improve wayfinding to the town centre.

North Quay from the air

Plans for the £20m revamp to Great Yarmouth's North Quay include a waterfront and improvements to the train station. - Credit: GYBC

The remaining £17m would be spent, along with the council’s own £2.2m, on regenerating the town’s North Quay area into “a vibrant new mixed-use waterfront quarter”. 

At the Thursday meeting, the council’s Labour opposition leader Trevor Wainwright said that while the funding would be welcome, it would pale in comparison to the overall cuts councils have experienced over the last decade. 

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Great Yarmouth Borough Council's Labour opposition leader, Trevor Wainwright. - Credit: Archant

Mr Wainwright said: “If this comes to fruition, we’ve got another eight to ten years [before the projects are completed] basically, by which time the people that we all represent will suffer huge hardships. 

“For instance, food bank use in this borough has gone up 85pc since March. What an indictment of the government.”

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He also warned that South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss, the potential prime minister from September, is promising £30bn of tax cuts - and he said this could spell the end of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. 

Conservative council leader Carl Smith responded by acknowledging that some people in Yarmouth had been forced to rely on food banks, before saying: "But there is a crisis across the world. It's not just in England or in Great Yarmouth. 

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Conservative council leader Carl Smith. - Credit: Archant

"Everyone's suffering. There's a war in Ukraine, there is a cost of living crisis all across the world. We will do all we can from this council chamber to help and support our residents whatever way it is. 

“And bringing all this money in will bring good-quality housing, good jobs, employment, education.

"You can sit there and shake your head, but that's what people want. Get people off benefits and get them into work, into good jobs, paid jobs - and that’s it.”

He insisted that even with a new PM, the government would remain committed to its ‘levelling up’ agenda.