'Now is the time to invest in Breckland'

Bosses at Breckland Council yesterday vowed not to panic and “raid the crown jewels” despite pleas to invest cash reserves which could be lost if the authority is scrapped as part of a local government shake-up.

Bosses at Breckland Council yesterday vowed not to panic and “raid the crown jewels” despite pleas to invest cash reserves which could be lost if the authority is scrapped as part of a local government shake-up.

Breckland and all other Norfolk councils are eagerly awaiting an announcement by the Boundary Committee next Monday which could see the current system replaced with unitary authorities.

During Breckland's full council meeting, Labour councillor Michael Fanthorpe made an impassioned plea to invest the millions of pounds “sloshing around” in reserves.

He said the district council was likely to disappear.

“What will happen to all our assets which we have acquired? Let's give something back to the public. This is not the time to re-invest. This is the time to invest in our people.”

He said money should be invested in capital projects in towns and villages - and to ensure bins are collected every week and to make Breckland council tax free.

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Mr Fanthorpe - a Dereham councillor - called for money to be spent in his town on a new cemetery, cycleways, railway improvements and to pedestrianise the Market Place.

Chief executive Trevor Holden said: “People will not want us to raid the crown jewels.”

He said some extra investment was needed but if all the reserves were spent, it would mean council tax bills would have to rise.

“We have to be very, very prudent because capital reserves are not refreshed. Once it is gone, it is gone.”

Breckland leader William Nunn said what the government was doing in reorganisation was “appalling” and would cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

But he warned: “We should not over-react and spend everything today. We need to make sure communities are served and money should be kept in Norfolk rather than invested elsewhere in the country.”

He said Breckland was already investing in its communities and the match-funding pot had been increased.

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