Wednesday, July 19, 2023 - 20:32

By Cllr Greg Peck

You may be aware or have read in the press that Norfolk is on a shortlist of county councils that are in negotiations with the government to transfer more power and funding to their respective councils.

The former Norfolk County Council leader, Andrew Proctor, signed an “in-principle” deal in December 2022, which positioned Norfolk to gain additional powers and money to improve people’s lives.

The aim is for decisions and funding previously controlled in Westminster to be agreed in Norfolk, for Norfolk.

The deal will help to boost our economy through jobs, training, housing and development, to improve our transport network and to support our environment.

The current administration under new leader Kay Mason Billig is continuing to negotiate with the government to bring even more powers and funding to Norfolk and ensuring the new governance model, which includes a directly elected leader, is acceptable.

The public consultation on the in-principle deal took place in the spring and the results have been analysed.

All county councillors will be asked at the full council meeting in December whether they support the move to an elected leader and cabinet system of governance.

Should the result be in favour, in spring 2024 parliament will decide whether to approve the “statutory instrument” required to let the deal proceed.

Western Link progress

Contrary to press reports, work on the Western Link is continuing. However, future spending has been paused until the funding has been approved by the government.

The county council has submitted its business case to the Department for Transport, which has approved the scheme and passed it to the treasury for sign-off.

The treasury has several schemes under consideration and these have to be prioritised. We are led to believe that ours has one of the best business cases, so we are hopeful that we will be selected to obtain funding very soon.

Failure to deliver this road will, in my opinion, be a disaster for my constituents, especially those living close to the route, who are suffering from rat-running and pollution from backed-up traffic through their villages.

I hope we will shortly hear that we have been successful in obtaining the funding we need.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Monday, May 16, 2022 - 13:33

By Cllr Greg Peck

The main challenge facing us all is the spiralling cost of living, which is hitting a wide number of households hard. That is why Norfolk County Council has created a new scheme that is flexible and can reach a broader range of people than previous hardship schemes. This includes families in need, older people and other vulnerable households.

The £7.7 million Norfolk Cost of Living Support Scheme, which will run until October, will be administered as follows:

  • £3.6m to support families with seven monthly cost of living vouchers for children eligible for means-tested free school meals. The payments will be £15 per month, per child, with an enhanced payment of £30 for August, to coincide with the school holidays. The total value will be £120 per child, over the course of the scheme. The vouchers will be paid from April (backdated) up to and including October. This approach gives families flexibility and choice by allowing them to budget monthly and offset vouchers against other financial pressures on their household bills and activities. It also means families will have payments during and outside school holidays with the option of saving them to use only in the school holidays if they prefer.
  • £1m allocated to the council’s Norfolk Assistance Scheme (NAS) to support families in hardship, where there isn’t eligibility for free school meals. This support is available to families with very young children, young carers and families caring for children with disabilities, many of whom may be facing significantly higher energy bills.
  • £2.2m, a third of the government funding, to support those aged 65 or over by providing cash and voucher awards through the voluntary sector and other partners, including a specific collaboration with Anglian Water, as well as support through NAS. The work with Anglian Water will support customers aged 65 or over who are on Anglian Water’s social tariffs, because they are in financial difficulty, providing a package of support to reduce and prevent debt. A total of £700,000 of this funding will be distributed to district, borough and city councils to support vulnerable communities.
  • £840,000 to support others in need, including funding for district, borough and city councils to meet immediate housing related concerns. This part of the scheme will also mean that voluntary sector agencies can refer those they are working with to the council for support.

I would encourage any residents who find themselves in hardship to contact Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020, so the council can offer support either directly or through their partners.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Monday, January 24, 2022 - 09:39

At Norfolk County Council’s cabinet meeting on 31 January we will be considering the latest budget proposals – the final decision on the budget will be taken by the full council meeting on 21 February.

The report to be considered by cabinet increases spending on key services compared with 2021/22, at the same time proposing to set a balanced budget for 22/23.

The report tables two possible council tax rises – 2.99% or the maximum possible 3.99% – but councillors have already said they favour 2.99% based on feedback from the recent public consultation.

In the light of this I am confident that cabinet will not agree to increase council tax to the maximum permitted level because we recognise the cost-of-living pressures people are facing – if this budget proposal is agreed, this will mean we have the lowest county council share of council tax in the region.

If approved, this proposal will provide a balanced budget that invests an extra £25 million (net) to support frontline services. We will have achieved this despite having to deal with major challenges, with rising costs, tackling the pandemic and more people coming forward for care.

We face a predicted budget gap the following year of £60 million; the report also proposes a review of how the council operates to tackle this gap. We are accelerating our work to transform the council by using technology and other innovations to become as cost effective and responsive as possible.

Our spending is funded by council tax and government grants and any shortfall must be covered by making savings. We will, instead, save money from how the council is run.

As with all well-run organisations, we have a range of transformation programmes to deliver services more effectively and reduce the costs of delivering them.

We will also continue to lobby the government for our fair share of funding, whether it be in recognising the challenges of being a large, rural and ageing population or in funding health and social care.

We are tightening the council’s belt, instead of raising council tax even higher, because we know residents face a rapid rise in the cost of living. We are determined to save money by making the council even more efficient and effective.

You can watch both the cabinet and council meetings, mentioned above, live or afterwards, or read the reports by going to the Norfolk County Council website.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Thursday, August 19, 2021 - 19:44

By Cllr Greg Peck

August is a quiet time at County Hall with many staff taking their annual leave. However, work continues, especially with the launch of several initiatives to build back the Norfolk economy as we, hopefully, come out of the pandemic.

Business school for 16-25-year-olds

The Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Norfolk, managed by Norfolk County Council’s Library and Information Service, is running a free online summer school for 16-25-year-olds to help them decide whether starting their own business might be right for them.

Participants are encouraged to attend all the summer school workshops but, if this is not possible, once registered they can confirm which workshops they are able to attend.

If they do not have a business idea they would like to pitch, they are still welcome to attend the final session and watch the pitches. For more details see the BIPC Norfolk Eventbrite page.

New funding initiative

Businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk are being encouraged to take advantage of a new capital grant opportunity of up to £30,000.

The DRIVE (Delivering Rural Investment for Vital Employment) programme wants to hear from small and medium-sized enterprises to grow the region’s rural economy.

Launched in February 2021, the £3m scheme supports local businesses to invest in new projects that benefit their growth and create new employment.

Rural broadband

Two million rural homes are set to benefit from a £5 billion funding package to improve broadband in areas with slow speeds.

The Government’s Project Gigabit fund will see up to 1.85 million additional premises across 26 English counties get access to gigabit-speed internet of 1,000 megabits per second – enough to download a high definition (HD) movie in less than 30 seconds.

It brings the current total number of premises in scope for Government-funded coverage to 2.2 million.

Norfolk is one of the first counties listed by the Government to receive funding and will receive between £115 million and £195 million.

Flexi apprenticeships

Sectors including the creative, agriculture and construction industries can now bid for a share of a £7 million fund to support the creation of new flexible apprenticeships, unlocking more opportunities for people to develop the skills they need to get good jobs.

The fund will establish a small number of agencies that will set up new flexi-job apprenticeships so an apprentice can work across a range of projects and with different employers to gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to be occupationally competent.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Thursday, May 20, 2021 - 15:01

By Cllr Greg Peck

As Churchill said, democracy is not perfect, but it is better than the alternative.

I am writing this having just completed more than a month of campaigning that left me and, I am sure, the other candidates completely exhausted.

First, I want to thank my opponents for putting themselves up for election and all that entails. Also, a big thank you to all those who voted in the election, whichever candidate you voted for.

I am honoured to have been selected to represent you for another four years, and I will do my best to ensure that I represent and support all the residents in my division.

If you win an election the elation of victory certainly does make the exhaustion bearable. I can only imagine that if you lose the exhaustion must feel ten times worse.

During the count one of the opposition candidates, with whom I am on good terms, turned to me and said, “Why do we put ourselves through this?”. We were both returned but until all the votes are counted you can never be quite sure.

One of my colleagues endured several recounts, where the final majority in favour of his opponent was 21 votes. In the end both winner and loser looked absolutely shattered.

With experience I have learnt some tricks that reduce the discomfort suffered by hours of trudging the streets and lanes.

I realised very early on that sartorial elegance and fashionable footwear need to be discarded in favour of comfort, so my brogues were replaced by a sturdy pair of hiking boots; in a previous election I had to get two pairs of shoes re-soled.

Clothing needs to be lightweight and waterproof. You do get hot even when walking in quite cold weather and in this country, you can never be sure it is not going to rain at some point during the day.

I spent one afternoon trying to keep my leaflets dry by covering them with my coat while I got soaked. Soggy leaflets are not good and are a devil’s own job to get through letterboxes.

Talking about letterboxes, some are more user friendly than others. It makes me really appreciate our postmen and women.

My heart lifted whenever I came across one of those standalone metal boxes: the ones that are at floor level left my back aching and the ones with thick brush draft excluders rip your hands to pieces.

So, for me, wearing leather gloves on a hot sunny day was not a fashion statement but to protect my hands.

At the last election I had three fingers shredded by a cat’s claws; this time it was just one deep puncture wound from a dog bite.

A lot has been said in the press about abuse suffered by canvassers. I have to say that generally the reception on the doorsteps was good, whether people agreed or disagreed with me.

However, you do get the odd person who can be incredibly abusive. Only on one occasion did I fear it might turn into a physical assault and in that instance, I beat a hasty retreat.

Online abuse is much more prevalent, and I think it will increase as social media is becoming the future of canvassing.

Now the campaign is over I can focus on getting on with the things that matter to my constituents.

As I write this, we are currently waiting for the leader of the council to determine what role we are expected to play in the new administration as he populates the various committees, etc.

I will endeavour to keep you informed about the work of the council and would welcome any questions.

Also, if you have an issue that you feel needs my involvement or support please do not hesitate to call or email me.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Monday, March 1, 2021 - 12:31

By Cllr Greg Peck

Last week, Norfolk County Council approved its budget, which is designed to support communities, the economy and the environment.

The £439m net revenue budget, a £102 million boost for roads and infrastructure and a 3.99% council tax rise was agreed at the full council meeting held on Monday 22 February.

Producing a balanced budget in the current difficult circumstances was no easy task, and doing so while protecting vital services, investing to tackle flooding and making as much provision as possible for potential shocks from Covid-19 – all without needing to propose the full 5% council tax increase, which was the government guideline.

However, as we emerge from the pandemic, the cabinet will continue to advocate strongly for Norfolk and press government for our fair share of funding and to bring forward long-needed reforms, particularly in adult social care.

The decisions made on the 22 February will:

  • raise general council tax by the government’s guideline figure – 1.99% – and raise the adult social care precept by 2% in 2021/22 and 1% the following year; this would raise the county council’s element of council tax by 3.99%, increasing the share of Band D bills by £56.43 to £1,472.94 for 2021-22;
  • invest £45.7m to meet cost and other pressures in services, including £28.2m in adult social care, £7m in children’s services and £10.5m in community and environmental services;
  • set aside £18.8m for Covid-19 costs in 2021-22;
  • make savings of £41.2m, including a net £20.4m of new proposals;
  • invest £102m in the capital programme, taking the total infrastructure programme to £537.7m; new items include £11.5m for supported housing for young adults, £4m for children’s residential homes, and investment in the Long Stratton bypass and new libraries;
  • invest £2m in new funding to respond to flooding, including an additional £350,000 in revenue budget provision, £235,000 in highways spending to reduce road flooding risks and £1.5m for the creation of a new flood reserve to fund urgent works, repairs and to enable recommendations from flood investigation reports;
  • increase by £4,000 each councillor’s Local Member Fund, taking the total to £10,000 to be made available to local parishes and communities to fund environmental projects;
  • provide £3m for improvements to greenways, footpaths and the national and Norfolk Trails network in the county.

The budget papers are available HERE

A recording of the meeting can be viewed HERE

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 20:17

By Cllr Greg Peck

Norfolk County Council (NCC) and Collison & Associates are working on a review of the Norfolk Rural Strategy and inviting people who live and work in Norfolk to have their say and help shape its future.

Previous versions of the strategy have been used to secure funding, such as the £9m awarded to hundreds of community and small business projects across Norfolk since 2016.

The previous strategy also initiated campaigns to improve rural digital connectivity and work to develop a detailed evidence base of our natural environment.

The aim of this survey is to ensure that rural Norfolk continues to thrive, setting out a blueprint to deliver a positive change for its rural communities.

NCC believes that to create this positive change, partnership with the community is important – and feedback from residents vital to its success.

The county council is really interested in what the community – residents, businesses, partnerships and academic institutions – think about how it can deliver the vibrant, healthy rural communities of the future.

For example, could the role of Reepham change, how do we use our world-class environment to support our vital tourism sector and how can the growth of clean energy fuel our homes and lives?

With an ageing population, rural Norfolk is also in the frontline of changes in healthcare so we need to understand how new technology can help meet future service delivery and business needs, through initiatives such as the Go Digital programme the council launched in December 2020.

Norfolk is a predominantly rural county with a rich history and an unrivalled diversity of landscapes, communities, market towns, villages and businesses.

With a proud history of innovation and “doing different” stretching back hundreds of years from the Agricultural Revolution to the first environmental land management schemes trialled in the Broads in the 1980s, which are now the central feature of the new UK agricultural policy.

There have been many changes to rural market towns. Digitalisation, online retailing, a rapid growth in remote working and an increasing desire to buy local products are combining to change the rural economy in new and fundamental ways.

One positive of the current pandemic is that many rural people are commuting less and accessing small shops and facilities in their community more.

If such changes are to become permanent, the steering group’s aim is to identify what should be done to support them.

If you would like to have your say on the future of rural Norfolk you can view the online survey HERE

You can review the draft strategy and comment on the issues that are most important to you, your community, business or organisation.

The steering group is also keen to collect ideas for rural projects.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Saturday, December 19, 2020 - 10:17

For the second year running Norfolk has come first among its peers in a national highways and transport survey.

Over the summer 3,300 people in Norfolk were asked for their views on topics such as road safety, highway maintenance, congestion and public transport as part of the National Highways and Transport Survey 2020.

The results were ranked against other participating councils from across the country to give a nationwide picture of how Norfolk is performing.

Out of 29 county councils and larger unitary authorities in its peer group, Norfolk secured the top spot for overall satisfaction and saw the highest above-average scores in both satisfaction with “traffic levels and congestion” and “condition of highways”.

Plan to plant one million trees

The county’s ambitious plan to plant one million trees started during National Tree Week at the beginning of December. Thousands of trees and hedge plants will be going into the ground in the first planting season as the five-year project gets underway.

The goal is for Norfolk to achieve a net gain of a million trees helping towards the county council’s wider ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030. This represents more than one tree per resident in the county (2019: population 908,000).

As the cabinet member with the responsibility for the county’s 16,000-acre County Farms Estate I am pleased that 36,000 trees are due to be planted on one of our properties. We are working with our tenants to bring forward more sites.

Safe winter driving video

With the weather turning colder and having experienced a few snow flurries already this year, the council has issued some advice to prepare the public for safe winter driving.

It has produced a short video that explains how to check your vehicle is ready for winter, as well as detailing what you should take with you on a winter journey in case you breakdown or get stuck. Watch the video HERE.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 08:29

By Cllr Greg Peck

As we continue to struggle with this awful pandemic and try to fend off a dreaded second spike, the county council is working hard on its Covid-19 recovery plan, to ensure we continue to support local businesses and the Norfolk economy so the recovery is as quick and as strong as possible.

We are also looking at our own activities: Covid has forced our own staff into different ways of working. Working from home and using IT solutions, such as videoconferencing, is the new normal.

We expect a lot of this to continue beyond Covid. That means we will be able to reduce our property portfolio throughout the county and consolidate more staff into County Hall, along with some partner organisations, which will produce both revenue savings and capital receipts.

This leads me to another major challenge we are facing right now: we are working on producing a balanced budget, which is something we have to do by law. It is increasingly difficult, as the funding from central government reduces year on year, but the demand on services increases.

Adult social services and children’s services, account for around 70% of all county council total spending. Norfolk’s demographic, with an increasingly ageing population, means we need a national resolution to the funding for adult social care going forward.

In addition to these challenges, we are still progressing the Western Link, which will relieve the disruption caused by rat running experienced by a number of villages in my division.

I am also continuing to press for a solution to the problems caused by the cable routes of the three offshore wind farm projects, which are coming through our area.

In particular, I am fighting to get a traffic management plan that avoids Cawston and the surrounding narrow road network. Even villages not directly affected by the cables coming through or near them will suffer from the extra 1,000 truck movements a week for up to 11 years on our local road network.

Libraries Week

This week, Norfolk Library and Information Service is celebrating Libraries Week (5–10 October). There are free books for children, a new adult “Big Read” and online reading activities.

Throughout the week, Norfolk Libraries will be highlighting on social media all the exciting ways people across the county can access books, online reading activities and free support for adults who struggle with reading.

This year’s theme celebrates books and reading, showcasing the vital contribution that libraries across the UK make towards building a “nation of readers” and acknowledging their remarkable efforts to keep the country reading, providing comfort, companionship and escapism during challenging times.

Our libraries have been a lifeline for many people in lockdown, keeping them connected to a world of books and reading, and continuing to provide vital digital services.

While events in libraries are on hold due to the pandemic, library staff have been recording Baby Bounce and Rhyme, Storytime and Coding Club videos, which can all be accessed for free on the Norfolk Libraries’ YouTube channel.

There are also plenty of live events for adults via Zoom, which continue to prove popular, including Knit & Natter, author Q&A sessions and weekly Reading Friends shared reading. To find out more visit the Norfolk County Council website.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282

Saturday, June 27, 2020 - 09:59

By Cllr Greg Peck

Norfolk’s libraries may be closed, but that isn’t stopping the return of the Summer Reading Challenge, which for 2020 is all about funny books, happiness and having a laugh.

With the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the impact of social distancing on schools and public libraries, this year’s challenge has launched as a digital activity to keep children reading over the summer and help prevent the summer reading “dip”.

The theme for this year’s challenge is the “Silly Squad”, a team of animal friends who love to go on adventures and get stuck in to all different kinds of funny books. It features bespoke artwork from award-winning children’s author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson.

Digital devices for Norfolk pupils

Meanwhile, 1,800 laptops are being provided for Norfolk pupils as part of the government’s scheme to support young people to learn remotely during the pandemic and help tackle digital exclusion.

Laptops and tablets are being provided for disadvantaged families, children and young people who do not currently have access to them through another source, such as their school.

To ensure the support goes to children who need it most, Norfolk County Council is following the government’s guidelines and is working with schools and specialist providers to identify those eligible.

Devices will be distributed over the coming days and weeks. All laptops will be delivered in a “good-to-go” state, so they can be used as soon as they are taken out of the box.

Adult learning

Adult learners’ study is ongoing through lockdown to enable learners to continue their courses, online – boosting their well-being and easing their isolation.

Within two weeks of lockdown starting, Norfolk County Council’s Adult Learning service ensured that all its 1,257 current learners were moved onto online classes; there are now 2,935 people learning online across the county.

Befriending service

Loneliness does not discriminate, so a new befriending service has been launched during Loneliness Awareness Week to combat isolation and loneliness in Norfolk.

In partnership with Norfolk County Council, Voluntary Norfolk has recruited 3,500 befrienders.

This army of volunteers has been recruited from those who came forward during the coronavirus pandemic. They will help people, who, for a variety of reasons, would benefit from social contact.

Residents can ask for support with loneliness and isolation by contacting Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020.

Cllr Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council, Reepham Division
Tel: 07972 230282