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New cabinet "means business"

Norfolk County Council, 10 May 2023 00:00

An ambitious new climate strategy, a £70 million boost for special needs education and high tech road maintenance shows that Norfolk County Council's new cabinet means business, its leader said today.

Today, county council leader Councillor Kay Mason Billig chaired the first meeting of the new cabinet. She said: "This is a cabinet of great talent and experience. We are starting work as we mean to go on - taking the right decisions for Norfolk and its people.

"We mean business - whether it's addressing climate change, supporting vulnerable people or using technology to make our services more efficient."

Climate strategy approved:

An ambitious climate strategy, to support Norfolk's move to net zero, has been agreed by the cabinet.

Retrofitting insulation in buildings, boosting sustainable transport, supporting green jobs and helping nature recover are among measures in the county council's climate strategy, to support Norfolk's move to become carbon neutral by 2030.

In the report Councillor Eric Vardy, Cabinet member for environment and waste, says: "Norfolk County Council is committed to supporting Britain's journey to net zero at the local level, doing so by showing leadership in making its estate net zero by 2030 and working with partners to help Norfolk achieve carbon neutrality.

"Working with others, not just other public sector bodies but also businesses and community groups, will be key to achieving the best outcomes for the county."

The strategy follows the council's commitment, made in 2019, to achieve net zero on its own estate. It aims to reduce the county council's 2016/17 carbon emissions of 21,000 tonnes per year, which have already been halved, by 90 per cent by 2030, with the remainder offset.

But the strategy emphasises that most of Norfolk's carbon emissions come from heating people's homes, from transport and from land use and agriculture. It also warns that Norfolk is already seeing the effect of changed weather patterns and needs to adapt to more-frequent flooding, drought and extreme heat, and that residents, businesses and public services will all need to adapt.

Key proposals include:

  • Retrofitting council buildings to take out gas and oil heating and improve insulation - and encouraging businesses, residents and other organisations to do the same
  • Reducing emissions from the council's companies, like Norse
  • Supporting active and sustainable transport, including further bus improvements
  • Developing the green economy, with support for green skills, sustainable tourism and businesses
  • Working with the Tyndall Centre for climate change research at the University of East Anglia, to understand climate change impacts and how Norfolk might adapt to them
  • Providing space for nature and developing a nature recovery strategy
  • Close collaboration between public sector, business, community and voluntary groups

The council has already planted more than 260,000 trees from its one million tree target, and cabinet will hear plans in June to meet the remainder of the target.

Special educational needs investment:

The county council has secured a £70 million funding boost for special needs education for children in Norfolk (SEND).

Known as Local First Inclusion, it will provide significantly more advice, support and funding for mainstream schools and introduce 15 new school and community support teams to give early help and support to both parents and schools.

It also means the council will develop dozens more special education classrooms, known as specialist resource bases (SRBs) and alternative provision at mainstream schools as well as building two more special schools.

Councillor Penny Carpenter, cabinet member for children's services, said: "It's fantastic news that our negotiations have secured £70 million of Government funding to support special educational needs service sin Norfolk.

"Together with additional annual investment the council has pledged for SEND, it will enable us to deliver our ambitious Local First Inclusion programme."

The county council will be investing an additional £5.5 million a year for six years totalling £33 million. The DfE has agreed to invest £28 million this year followed by £6 million a year for four years, provided the council meets progress targets, and £12 million in the final year of the programme, totalling £70 million overall. The county will also receive £135 million from Government core SEND high needs funding this year.

New gritting technology:

The same meeting heard how award-winning use of gritting technology will be rolled out across Norfolk.

Thousands of pounds have already been saved by making sure salt is spread at the right rate for each location using detailed forecast and live data from roadside sensors. And next winter this new tech will be rolled out across the rest of the county following the success already seen in the north and west areas of the county.

Councillor Graham Plant, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "I'm proud that our award-winning use of the latest tech is showing other parts of the country how to deliver a better and more efficient winter service.

"I'd like to thank the winter maintenance team and gritting crews for their dedication in keeping Norfolk moving each winter."

The county council has been proactive in adopting new technology, such as low-cost temperature sensors using the LoRaWAN wireless sensor network, and auto-salting. Norfolk County Council's use of technological innovation was recognised in October 2022, when the team won the national Highways Industry Winter Maintenance award.

Auto-salting sees gritter drivers get live in-cab updates to spread rates and routes, and remote changes can be made allowing drivers to concentrate on the road ahead, without needing to make adjustments manually. This means salt spread rates are more efficient and are set to bring savings of up to £180,000 over the next three years.

Real-time road surface temperature sensors mean that decisions are shaped by on the ground data, which is used alongside traditional forecasting methods, to best target gritting runs and salt spread rates. Making decisions in this way has saved around £132,000 over the last two winters. Watch a recording of the meeting and read the reports

Last modified: 14 May 2024 12:45