What now for Norfolk County Council after the elections?

Andrew Proctor has sent a scathing letter to the Planning Inspectorate over its decision to allow 17

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

The to-do list is a lengthy one for bosses at Norfolk County Council, after voters helped the Conservatives tighten their control of County Hall.

From getting the controversial Norwich Northern Distributor Road Western Link built, to helping drive the county's recovery as the impact of coronavirus eases, Conservative leader Andrew Proctor said voters had put their trust in his party to deliver.

And he said that one of the key issues in his in-tray is to make sure Norfolk does not miss out on government money to the so-called 'red wall' areas in the north of England - when it comes to the government's levelling up agenda.

The 'red wall' refers to those traditionally Labour areas, where the Conservatives have won in recent years.

The government last year set up a "levelling up taskforce" to reduce geographical inequality, which includes pots of cash to areas to provide better roads and public transport, while boosting town and city centres.

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It is seen as a way to level up the north/south divide, with money likely to head to those newly Conservative areas. Quite how Norfolk fits into that remains to be seen.

But Mr Proctor said the council would be making sure the government knows Norfolk deserves help in "levelling up" too, with a long-held perception that the county has missed out on money to other areas.

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Mr Proctor said: "With the levelling up fund, we have got to make sure that we get our share of that. We will have stiff opposition with the rest of the country, with the 'red wall' seats, but we will be making our case."

The political make-up at Norfolk County Council following last week's elections is now Conservatives 58, Labour 11, Liberal Democrats eight, Greens three and Independents three.

Election count

The count of Norfolk County Council votes for candidates in the Broadland and South Norfolk area, held at the Norfolk Showground. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

On Sunday, Mr Proctor was re-elected as leader of the Conservative group and is likely to be elected council leader again when the council's annual general meeting is held on May 24.

One of his aims is to deliver on the Conservative manifesto, which included a pledge for a new economic taskforce to support jobs and businesses in Norfolk, to complete the Western Link for the NDR and to get the A47 fully dualled.

The Western Link has long been a priority of the Conservative administration, but getting a business case in has been hit by delays.

The £153m road has also attracted criticism, including over its impact on wildlife.

The Conservative manifesto also pledges to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.

Mr Proctor, who insists that is not contradictory to delivering the Western Link can expect to be challenge on that.

Both Labour and the newly elected Greens will be doing their best to block it.

Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrat group leader at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Alex Broadway

Steffan Aquarone stepped down as Liberal Democrat leader over the Western Link. - Credit: Alex Broadway

The Liberal Democrats had supported it in their manifesto, but it remains to be seen what impact the resignation of group leader Steffan Aquarone, who said he could not support the road, will have on their stance.

The Conservative manifesto also included pledges of £5m for libraries, £3m to upgrade children's homes, £10m for road repairs and £40m for care villages, residential homes and housing with care schemes.

Bowthorpe Care Village, near Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams

The care village at Bowthorpe. Conservatives at Norfolk County Council have pledged to invest more in care homes. - Credit: Steve Adams

Mr Proctor said: "Obviously, we will be looking to deliver our manifesto which has a number of key issues.

"We have also got a business plan together for Norfolk which will be refreshed over the next couple of months so we can see the direction we need to take.

"There's also the post-Covid situation. We have been in this now for well over a year and it's time to start looking forward with cautious optimism."

He said the council needed to show leadership in driving the county's recovery - and that investing in services, while supporting other organisations, would help to do that.

Mr Proctor said: "People expect a lot from us in terms of leadership and the county council can play an important part in leading that recovery."

He said the council's children's services department was also likely to have an inspection from Ofsted this year.

The department was rated inadequate in 2013 and 2015, after visits from the regulator.

Following a 2017 visit, that was upgraded to requires improvement.

Mr Proctor is keen to show that further improvement has been made, while inspectors are also likely to visit the adult social care department.

Firefighters attend the scene of a house fire on Addison Road, Gorleston.Picture: Nick Butcher

In 2019, inspectors said Norfolk's Fire and Rescue Service was not good enough. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Inspectors are also likely to return to run the rule over Norfolk fire and rescue service, which they said was not good enough in 2019.

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