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Council gets just £158 from initiative

PUBLISHED: 09:30 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:00 01 August 2010

NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth. Or so the saying goes.

But the leaders of a Norfolk council were rubbing their eyes with disbelief yesterday after receiving a miserly £158.

NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth. Or so the saying goes.

But the leaders of a Norfolk council were rubbing their eyes with disbelief yesterday after receiving a miserly £158.04 from a multi-million pound government initiative.

More than £11m is set to be dished out to councils across the east of England as part of the Local Authority Business Growth Incentives Scheme (LABGI), which aims to reward councils for success-fully promoting economic growth.

But South Norfolk Council officials were less than grateful after being awarded a £158.04 sum that equates to about 0.0013p per head of the district's 117,300 population.

Local government minister John Healey yesterday confirmed the latest grants - calculated by assessing the business rate growth of local authorities - which could be used to meet local needs and priorities during the credit crunch.

Norwich City Council is set to receive more than £½m while other local district councils will get funding boosts of between £200,000 and £50,000.

But John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council said he was left fuming at the authority's £158 allocation, which could not even buy a round of drinks for local business leaders.

“It is an embarrassment for us and an embarrassment for the government. How could any reasonable person award half a million to Norwich and £158 to us? The Norwich Research Park falls into the South Norfolk area and has been identified in the regional plan as being one of the top areas for job growth in the whole of the east,” he said.

Mr Fuller added that the district council, which is set to approve a 2.48pc council tax rise at a meeting tonight, “could not compete” in the LABGI grants scheme because the authority's business rate baseline was set in 2001 following the opening of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney and the Norfolk Police headquarters in Wymondham.

“It is more evidence that the government does not take economic development in the countryside seriously. They are totally focused on cities and the problems in our rural areas are wholly overlooked. We would have been better off putting two fingers up to the police and hospital because we have been paying for it ever since,” he said.

Garry Wheatley, cabinet member for finance and resources at South Norfolk, added that he thought the £158 figure was a “mistake” when he first heard about it.

“It is very difficult to believe. It does not help at all and makes the situation worse in the sense that the government is not publicly acknowledging the businesses we have in South Norfolk,” he said.

But a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government (East) yesterday confirmed the district council's LABGI allocation was correct.

“LABG payments are made to councils that achieve set targets on supporting business growth, measured as increases in business rateable value in a local authority area against historic levels. The funding is allocated on the basis of how much a council exceeds its target,” she said.

A total of £100m will go to 360 councils across the country - a third of the amount that LABGI distributed last year.

HANDOUT DETAILS

District and county council coffers across the region are set to benefit from a boost following the latest Local Authority Business Growth Incentives Scheme handouts. But all will receive much less than last year's government grants. The first figures are for 2009/10 with the 2008/09 figures in brackets.

Breckland Council - £74,595 (£194,400)

Broadland District Council - £116,442 (£337,548)

Cambridgeshire County Council - £482,070 (£1,260,260)

Forest Heath District Council - £52,514 (£133,105)

Great Yarmouth Borough Council - £210,795 (£529,166)

King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council - £52,329 (£147,517)

Mid Suffolk District Council - £103,967 (£282,110)

Norfolk County Council - £627,080 (£1,618,018)

North Norfolk District Council - £73,609 (£210,017)

Norwich City Council - £565,594 (£1,406,722)

St Edmundsbury Borough Council - £104,394 (£261,756)

South Norfolk Council - £158.04 (£8,710)

Suffolk County Council - £584,584 (£1,601,018)

Waveney District Council - £211,237 (£601,129)

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