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Norfolk funding battle begins

PUBLISHED: 10:49 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:57 30 June 2010

The fight for a fair deal for Norfolk is to restart in earnest as MPs and council leaders of all political colours join in standing up for the county in expectation of cuts in this month's budget

Norfolk has historically cried foul at years of underinvestment in vital services from roads to schools while government funding formulas have seen millions of pounds going to other parts of the country.

The fight for a fair deal for Norfolk is to restart in earnest as MPs and council leaders of all political colours join in standing up for the county in expectation of cuts in this month's budget

Norfolk has historically cried foul at years of underinvestment in vital services from roads to schools while government funding formulas have seen millions of pounds going to other parts of the country.

Now politicians and local govern-ment leaders are to draw up a battle plan to secure the county's future.

Yesterday prime minister David Cameron sowed further anxieties by warning of years of “pain” for the country as the spending axe falls because the economy is in a worse state than previously thought.

And with the government also threatening to scrap the East of England Development Agency, there are concerns that the county will miss out at a time when investment in skills and infrastructure is crucially needed.

Norfolk MPs have already met to focus on joint priorities for the county while South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has lobbied transport secretary Philip Hammond over the A11.

Last week the communities and local government department delayed a planned announcement detailing cuts in council grants for this year, which many believe could put housing projects at risk, includ-ing in greater Norwich and the Nar Ouse regeneration project in King's Lynn.

Derrick Murphy, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council, said that with all the county's MPs sitting as members of the coalition government the county needed to join together at all levels to lobby government on the big-ticket issues including transport links, housing, college funding and skills.

“The one thing we have all got in common is we agree on the need to improve infrastructure. If we haven't got that then Norwich cannot grow in a sustainable way,” Mr Murphy said. “The A11 dualling is number one, and we need the NDR, and the third river crossing in Great Yarmouth.

“We can invite Palm Paper here and Lotus can expand, but at the end of the day if we haven't got the infrastructure we are not going to be able to exploit that inward invest-ment.

“The idea is to get everyone together and form a Norfolk caucus. We want to work together. We have all got to rally behind Norfolk. I'm not naïve. People in other parts of the country are going to be knocking on ministers' doors saying 'help us'.

“If Norwich isn't performing it will affect the rest of Norfolk and vice versa.”

The funding fight comes as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) predicts Norwich is set for a population explosion, becoming the fourth fastest growing city in the country within the next decade.

The ONS believes the city's population will rise to 160,000 by mid-2018, 23,000 more people compared to the population in 2008.

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