Leader of North Norfolk District Council Sarah Bütikofer reports on progress over the last 12 months.
At the Annual Meeting of North Norfolk District Council Liberal Democrat leader Sarah Bütikofer said, “I am so proud of our District Council and the communities of North Norfolk, in the way everyone rose to meet those challenges. We know how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the country, what sometimes gets forgotten is the community spirit, the dedication to helping and serving each other and the pure kindness that we also benefit from in this part of the world.”
Highlights from the Leader's Report
Responding to the Covid Crisis
- We immediately set up strategic engagement through the Norfolk Resilience Forum structures so that the Council's local response was co-ordinated with and supported national policy and messaging
- During the first lockdown whilst local support networks were becoming established, we set up and operated a Community Support Programme for local residents who were shielding and self-isolating. A Community based response through local Co-ordination Centres provided support with non-emergency requests for assistance, including
- Delivery of almost 500 food parcels and over 5000 prescriptions whilst helping to support others in securing food deliveries from local and national retailers,
- At the same time the team back in the offices administered over £26million of Business Rate Relief payments.
- £120million of Government Business Grants paid out.
- £48million of hardship payments to local residents in receipt of some benefits paid out.
- Yes the money was provided from central government. Rightly so our communities needed us all to pull together to deliver for them.
- Our housing team provided support for rough sleepers under the national "Everybody In" programme to provide a safe place for street homeless during the national lockdown.
- In an attempt to keep our residents as safe as possible particularly from out of area visitors, the Council team managed closures and openings of facilities across the District.
Preparing for Summer Visitors
Last summer much of the Council's focus was in supporting the safe re-opening of the district's town centres and high streets, beaches, promenades and Broads areas for local residents, day trippers and the many thousands of people who took staycation holidays as the global Coronavirus pandemic significantly impacted on foreign travel.
Much of the Council's outward-facing public services provision i.e. of public car parks, toilets, beach safety and management, cleansing was therefore focussed on managing very large numbers of visitors to the District – in coastal areas particularly we saw visitor numbers significantly above what we would "host" in a more "normal" year. The Council therefore promoted social distancing measures, provided hand sanitising stations and introduced high frequency cleaning and "fogging" of high frequency touch surfaces so as to maintain a COVID-safe visitor environment across North Norfolk. We anticipate a similar increase in the number of visitors this summer, if not even more, and will be planning accordingly including continuing to provide our team of Covid Support Officers. We are also looking at ways to create additional temporary parking capacity, through park and ride schemes, and to support and create new trading opportunities to our local businesses.
Moving Forward with Our Corporate Plan
Our ambitious Corporate Plan is already delivering significant and in some cases life changing outcomes for our residents.
We are starting to see the results of our plan to help those in housing crisis. Just last week we saw another family move into a temporary home within the District, rather than being forced out of area to live in one room at a Bed and Breakfast. Not only is this supporting a family at a very difficult time but it provides economic results for all North Norfolk residents, we have an asset, in many cases we have a rental income and we are not incurring the cost for providing bed and breakfast accommodation. This programme of increasing accommodation to provide better housing for our homeless households has now provided 7 units with plans to double this.
Additionally we have been able to:
- Working with partners we have recently opened our exemplary Housing with care scheme in Fakenham.
- Planning permission has recently been granted for our first green truly affordable housing in the District.
After a challenging start our environmental and climate change agenda moves forward apace, EV charging points have been put in place in 5 locations across the District, and photovoltaic panels have been installed on the District Council offices. We are developing plans to tackle our carbon footprint and those of our business partners. We have planted 20,000 trees and already have plans in the pipeline for another 40,000. There have already been two major Climate Forum events and these will continue as community interest and engagement grows.
In addition to supporting our business community with the grants available to them, we have delivered new business units in North Walsham, with new tenants now moving in, creating new jobs and helping other businesses to expand. Our business portfolio holder has worked with forgotten sectors in the governments support plan, and provided them with essential grants to enable them to plan for the future, in particular with Outdoor Education Centres such an invaluable resource for the education and mental well being of young people everywhere, and a key employer in the District.
Talking of young people the Council has also acted as a gateway to promote uptake of the governments Kickstart scheme across the District helping 16 – 24 year olds into employment. So far around a hundred new opportunities have been created by working in partnership.
Heritage, health and community
We have been successful in obtaining outside investment into the area. One result of this is the £3million North Walsham Heritage Action Zone programme, already delivering improvements to the town centre with so much more to come over the next few months and year.
At a time when the future of Leisure facilities is in question in some parts of the country we are on track to deliver on time and on budget the new £12million Sheringham Leisure Centre, The Reef.
Our Record of Delivering for You
North Norfolk District Council now has a record it can be proud of under a Liberal Democrat administration. We promised to deliver housing, to support business, to work hard to protect our natural environment and to put our residents first. We have delivered and we plan to go on delivering for the people of North Norfolk who are and always will be our number one priority.