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Councillor’s ‘hedge fund’ call

A county councillor has called for a local “Hedge Fund” to restore hedgerows after recent snowfall caused chaos on the county’s country roads.

Ed Maxfield, who represents the Mundesley division as an Independent says the fund could see miles of new hedges planted each year.

“Villages like Northrepps, Antingham and Paston in my division have seen roads blocked by drifting snow well after it stopped snowing,” he said. “The loss of hedgerows has contributed to that and the County Council should step up and help to tackle the problem.

“The Conservatives want to give each county councillor £10,000 to spend on roads in their area. If they took just £2,000 of that they could create a £150,000 ‘Hedge Fund’ to spend on returning hedges to the county’s fields.

“The coalition government ran a scheme that paid farmers to plant new hedges. At the same rate, a local scheme could plant 13km each year. But that’s even before you take account of voluntary contributions.”

He said people had already offered to help with the planting and he was sure environmental charities would also pitch in because of the many benefits to the nature.

“More hedges mean more wildlife habitat,” he said. “It contributes to carbon fixing. It probably reduces problems with flooding by taking water from over-worked ditches. And it would cut the need for snow ploughing. It’s a simple fix that whole communities could get behind.”

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council member for environment and waste, said the council was already in the throes of a tree-planting project – One Million Trees for Norfolk – with more than 6,300 tree and hedge plants already in the ground.

“We’re working with partners including the Tree Council, The Woodland Trust and Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group on the Norfolkwide five-year scheme that will expand, improve and connect our existing tree and hedge cover, including on farms,” he said.

“I’m sure that any extra funding that members would like to contribute locally, to establish and maintain trees and hedges in the right place, would be a welcome addition.”

Council tax rise to be considered

County council budget proposals, including a 3.99pc rise in council tax, will be considered by the authority’s scrutiny committee this month.

The meeting, on Wednesday, February 17,  will scrutinise the cabinet’s proposed revenue and capital budgets for 2021/22, including proposed investments and savings.

Scrutiny committee chairman Steve Morphew said: “Lurching from one year to another is no way to run the finances of a council like Norfolk. We are facing challenges from all angles and need to make sure Norfolk people are getting the best possible services using their money wisely.

“That needs openness, transparency and honesty to enable the scrutiny committee to do its job on behalf of Norfolk. We all benefit from robust challenges to make sure genuine problems are tackled and not used as an excuse for inaction.”

The meeting will scrutinise:

  • the proposed £439m revenue budget – spending on services and running costs, funded by council tax, business rates and government funding. By law, this budget must always be balanced
  • proposals to raise general council tax by the government’s guideline figure – 1.99pc – and raise the adult social care precept by 2pc in 2021/22 and 1pc the following year. This would raise the county council’s overall share of council tax by 3.pc meaning a band D property’s payment would increase by £56.43 to £1,472.94 for 2021-22.
  • the proposed £537m capital budget – spending on infrastructure – funded by government grants, land sales and borrowing.

The revenue budget report says that the council has seen its government funding reduce by £92.8m since 2015, while cost pressures on children’s services and adults’ services rose by £40.1m last year alone.

People can submit questions to the committee via committees@norfolk.gov.uk up until 5pm on Friday, February 12.

The final decision on the budget will be taken at the full council meeting at 10am on Monday, 22 February.

You can view the scrutiny committee’s reports and access the meeting, live from 10am on February 17 by clicking here.

Full steam ahead!

One of Norfolk’s most popular tourist attractions is back on the rails as the Bure Valley Railway opens for business once more.

From Saturday, August 1, the railway will be operating a three-train service five days a week (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) with trains running every hour from the Aylsham and Wroxham stations.

All the coaches have been fitted with special screens to maintain distancing and safety and passengers will have a reserved compartment for their party for both the outward and return journeys.

For train times and online booking visit www.bvrw.co.uk

Key workers can win a dream wedding

One lucky Norfolk couple who have put their wedding on hold to look after others during the covid-19 pandemic are being offered a chance to win their dream day, thanks to a group of local businesses.

Companies from all over Norfolk have joined together to offer a couple of key workers a wedding to remember – with invitations, flowers, the gown and bridesmaid’s dresses, stylish transport, make-up and hair, a fabulous cake, photographs… even entertainment including a singer and a magician to make the day truly magical.

The ceremony itself will take place at Thursford Garden Pavilion and will include a romantic night in the Holly Lodge Guest House and be tailor-made to the couple’s taste.

The competition was the idea of Amelia Hacking, whose Capture Lounge company provides photo booths for weddings and special occasions. She contacted 30 businesses who were only too keen to add their services to make up a prize worth around £25,000.

An engaged key worker couple could be in line for the wedding of a lifetime, thanks to a group of Norfolk businesses.

One, Charlotte Staff, of Charlotte Staff Flowers, said: “She wanted to put something together from our industry to say a huge thank-you to one lucky engaged Norfolk key worker couple who have put their own lives on the line by keeping on working during the pandemic.

“I think we all felt the same as she did and jumped at the opportunity to give something back!”

To be in with a chance, couples need to be key workers who are already engaged and living in Norfolk. They can be nominated, or can nominate themselves, and the organisers have used the government guidelines on who is classed as a key worker so that no sector is missed out.

The competition will be judged on the couple’s background story, saying why they deserve the prize. It won’t be judged on the number of nominations but nominate as many as you think might deserve it.

For more details on the competition, the businesses involved and, most importantly, to make a nomination, click here.

Meet Liam – the Happisburgh Hero!

Liam Kelly is putting his daily exercise to good use – helping the people who helped him get better when he was born with a lung infection.

The nine-year-old, who lives in Happisburgh, decided to set himself a challenge to help the NHS and will be theoretically cycling around the perimeter of Norfolk – 181 miles.

His mum, Sharon, said: “He wanted to do a bake sale but thought that would not work because of the lockdown, so he thought he would try and come up with something different he could do using his daily exercise time… We felt four miles a day would be a reasonable distance and therefore it would take 45 days.”

So far Liam has completed 151 miles of his challenge and has raised £1,500, smashing his initial £500 target.

Setting off on part of the ride.

The challenge is particularly personal to the family – when Liam was born he had breathing issues due to a lung infection and his dad was in the army and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, for which he had to go to hospital.

“Liam wanted to thank the NHS because without the nurses, doctors and medicines he feels his life would be very different today,” said Sharon.

Over the days he has gained a large fan base who turn out to cheer him on. “The Coastguard even give him the sirens when they pass us,” she added.

Stalham and Smallburgh First Responders have also joined the cause to help him on his way.

Time to take a short breather on the way round.

And this is not the first time Liam has done things to help others, from donating a bag of his toys to help flood victims in Cumbria, to completing charity runs, handing out bedding to the homeless and completing a 10 mile sponsored bike ride to raise funds for Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue.

Sharon said: “The villagers have renamed him Happisburgh Hero, he’s brought a lot of joy at a very bleak time for many.” 

To donate to his efforts, click here.

Florence’s big night in raises £2,000 – and counting

A Big Night In turned into a Big Shave Off for Florence Fagan, who is smashing the target she set for her sponsored headshave.

Nine-year-old Florence, from North Walsham, decided to lose her long hair after being inspired by the The Big Night In telethon, where Comic Relief and BBC Children In Need teamed up for an evening of fundraising. But it was a difficult decision at first.

“We watched the programme and thought nothing more of it, but a couple of days later Florence was very quiet and seemed upset,” said her mum, Lucy.

“She said she didn’t want to say what was wrong and was nervous… then she said she wanted to shave her head for charity.”

Once she realised her family and friends were all in favour of her idea, a fundraising page was set up and it was “all systems go”.

Florence Fagan before and after her headshave. She has already raised more than £2,000.

“I had offered to do it with her for moral support, but she said she didn’t want me to do it, she wanted to do it on her own,” said Lucy, adding that she was both relieved and proud.

Florence’s sister, Maisie, 12, started the shave by cutting off Florence’s plait and then dad John took over – and he seems to have done a good job.

“She loves her hair,” said Lucy. “She was a little bit nervous about going out but we’re not doing that much and she has been putting a hat on.”

And far from laughing at her, as she feared, people have helped her smash her £200 target,  with friends, family and others boosting the total to £2,280 – a total which is still rising.

“We are bursting with pride,” said Lucy. “She has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, we don’t know why, and for her to make such a brave decision has blown us away.”

And Florence, who is a pupil at Colby Primary School, said on her FloJo No Bow Just Giving Page that she hoped her actions would help children in need.

“I want to help people’s lives and raise as much money as I can… thanks to you all. I can’t believe I did it already it feels so different. I think you are all very kind for donating and I would love to see if I’ve inspired anyone.”

If you would like to donate, click here to access her Just Giving Page

A message from the ‘mini heroes’ of the NHS

The children of NHS workers on the frontline in the fight against covid-19 in Norfolk are asking all of us to help keep their parents safe.

The children of NHS workers from across Norfolk and Waveney – dubbed the miniature heroes of the NHS – have been designing their messages which have been posted on social media to emphasise the importance of staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

The youngsters, whose parents are nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers, have made heart-warming signs such as “stay home for my mummy” in a plea to people to follow the government’s guidelines.

Dr Siobhan Rowe, senior partner at The Humbleyard Practice, south of Norwich, commented: “We are really appreciative of the people of Norfolk and Waveney following government guidelines and staying at home these last few weeks. 

“This minimises the levels of risk for healthcare workers, who have such an important job to do, but equally have families at home who worry about them.”

Win a visit from firefighters!

Children in Norfolk are being invited to enter a new competition for a chance to win a visit to their school from a fire and rescue crew later this year.

Online learning fun for children is now available on the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s website and includes top tips on staying safe at home, as well as fun activities including colouring sheets and puzzles around the theme of fire safety. And youngsters are being encouraged to design their own home safety poster using the information they find in the Kids’ Zone.

Chief Fire Officer Stuart Ruff said: “With people spending more time at home and using more electrical devices, there is the potential for an increased fire risk for the whole family. This is a risk that families can help to reduce by following safety advice together. It’s vital that the whole family is aware of home safety and what to do in an emergency.

“We’re encouraging children to look at the tips and then create posters, which they can take a photo of or scan in and send to us for a chance to win a crew visit.”

Observing social distancing rules are Lauren and Hannah, with Watch Manager Simon Golby of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, launching the children’s safety competition.

The competition runs until June 30, when CFO Ruff will choose a winner from each of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s four districts. Once the pandemic is over, crews will make contact with the four winners’ schools to arrange the visits and crews will take along a fire engine to show pupils the equipment they use in their everyday work, as well as explaining what’s involved in becoming a firefighter and talking about safety.

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: “All these resources are designed to help families and children stay safe at home through this difficult period. It’s so important that every child knows how to spot key signs of fire danger in the home, and what to do in case of an emergency.

“We’re delighted to launch these resources online and looking forward to seeing the creative posters designed by children across Norfolk.”

These resources are being launched as part of Norfolk County Council’s Learning at Home campaign which aims to support parents with the challenge of home teaching by providing tips advice and useful resources via Facebook and Twitter. You can find out more here.

The next phase of online learning for the fire service will be the launch of an online version of their popular Crucial Crew children’s education programme into the Kids’ Zone shortly. Crucial Crew usually runs seven times a year and all Year 6 children in Norfolk are given the chance to take part. More than 60,000 children have taken part over the years.

The project is supported by many agencies and covers topics including fire, electrical, water and online safety, first aid and issues around alcohol, drugs and violence. 

CFO Ruff said: “As we are not able to run Crucial Crew at the moment, we have worked with partners to gather some great online learning resources which cover some of the topics we would usually chat through face to face.”