Norfolk Greens push budget talks to the line

 

There were a good number of fevered brows on the faces of Norfolk councillors as the Green Party played hard ball over the county budget.

After five months of tip toeing around negotiations in this delicate "Rainbow" coalition, the Green Party lobbed in a grenade.

It left the Labour led administration with a real day of reckoning when agreement had to be reached or the Government may have had to intervene.

Start Quote

I don't know if it's the right way to behave but it's the only option we have sometimes with the way the council is structured at the moment and we'll use it to get the best deal we can for the Green Party in Norfolk."”

End Quote Councillor Richard Bearman Green Party, Norfolk County Council

It was the biggest crisis to face the alliance of Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP councillors, who are supported by the Greens, since it came to power last May.

The Conservatives predicted four years of chaos then and watched this budget wrangle from the sidelines.

Greens' Demands

The weekend before the budget was to have been passed, the Greens, holding the balance of power, wrote have to the council leader, with seven demands - otherwise they wouldn't support the plans.

These included scrapping money set aside for the northern distributor road, a 20 mile an hour speed limit in Norwich and a promise to increase council tax in the future.

George Nobbs, the Labour Leader of the Council, says it wasn't an easy meeting with so many political groups to convince.

In the end, passed by just two votes after a debate lasting five-and-a-half hours at County Hall, a new budget was finally approved.

Some of the the Greens were won over after the council agreed to spend more money on adult social care and childrens' services.

Norfolk will freeze council tax and bring in cuts of £66 million pounds.

Compromise

Councillor Nobbs said:" The electorate voted for five parties and one independent and actually I'm quite proud of the fact that at the end of the day, four parties and the independent all came together.

He denied that he'd been held to ransom "but it is about compromise", he admitted.

Meanwhile, Councillor Richard Bearman, Leader of the Green group denied underhand tactics. He said:"I don't know if it's the right way to behave but it's the only option we have sometimes with the way the council is structured at the moment and we'll use it to get the best deal we can for the Green Party in Norfolk."

We said last year council life would be interesting under this alliance. Setting the budget appeared to be the first major flashpoint but it's unlikely to be the last.

 
Deborah McGurran, Political editor, East of England Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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