Wednesday 27 September 2023

Nutrient Neutrality Speech at Norfolk County Council - 26/09/23

My speech to Norfolk County Council about Nutrient Nutrality on 26.09.23

Chair, earlier this month the Government confirmed that it intended to scrap Nutrient Neutrality laws. Laws regarded by organisations such as the RSPB as vital legislation that protects against water pollution caused by developments near to protected areas.

This matters to us here in Norfolk. Natural England concluded, following extensive research, Norfolk, along with 26 other areas with protected sites all over England, was on the edge. They determined that Norfolk’s river network simply couldn’t continue to take excess nutrients from house building without further damage to those habitats and species.

Councils, environmental groups and developers have spent months, and many thousands of pounds of public funds, working on a way forward, only for the Government to change course again at the eleventh hour.

It is important to understand that Nutrient Neutrality laws do not prevent development, but they do require developers to demonstrate that they have offset the pollution they will be generating by funding measures elsewhere in the catchment.

The greater the impact on the environment, the greater the offset required. The laws essentially encourage developers to adopt a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach from the outset.

And it is important to note that if nutrient neutrality laws are scrapped it will be taxpayers picking up the bill for the pollution caused by housebuilders with extra public money made available to pick up the pieces.

Recent analysis has shown that Britain’s eight biggest housebuilders have made more than £7billion pounds in profits in the two years since the pandemic.

Residents, developers, councils, the environment all need research led, well-considered laws, they need time to plan and prepare. A Government that changes policy ‘on the hoof’ serves nobody.

But it’s not just the constant changing narrative from the Government that is the problem here. As the Housebuilders Federation points out, the inaction by this Government over a number of years has led us to this latest mess. The Government has not taken seriously the root causes of river pollution – they’ve delayed and procrastinated. Allowing water companies to get away with a lack of investment and declining infrastructure which results in significant quantities of nutrients entering out waterways. Further, the Government has been turning a blind eye to agricultural runoff too and whilst nutrient neutrality laws are important, these other factors are being ignored.

It is important to consider that as well as the obvious environmental risks, scrapping these laws could have huge negative financial implications for Norfolk’s economy.

It is estimated that the Norfolk Broads alone attract seven million people a year to Norfolk, contributing around half a billion pounds to the local economy, supporting more than 6,000 jobs. And that’s just the Broads. The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is responsible for nearly 2 million overnight visits a year and contributes a further £163m.

We weaken our waterways at our peril, both environmentally and financially.

I hear the arguments about needing to scrap these laws to speed up house building. I recognise the demand. I see with my own inbox the many housing related cases. But, we can and must ensure development in the short term, does not destroy our environment in the long term.

We’re not doing nearly enough to tackle empty homes, second homes and under-occupancy in this County. In 2022, there were more than 4,000 homes empty across Norfolk, a 17% increase on the year before. In the same year there’s more than 13,000 second homes too.

Chair, we absolutely should be addressing our housing challenges in Norfolk, the affordability, the size, shape and location but we should be protecting our precious natural environment too, an environment that is integral to our economic success.

We simply can’t allow this situation to become a trade off between homes and our environment. If we can’t find a way for them to live together then neither will thrive and we’ll all be far worse off.

Thursday 11 May 2023

Norfolk Full Council - Tuesday 9th May 2023

I was back at Norfolk County Hall again on Tuesday for a Full Council meeting where I was pleased to support a Labour motion which received cross-party support calling for more to be done to stop sewage being pumped into our seas and waterways. I'll post the newspaper write-up of the motion's success in the comments.
There was also a motion on the agenda today tabled by the Green Group (Three Cllrs out of Eighty-four Cllrs in total). This motion called for the Norwich Western Link road to be scrapped and the money ‘saved’ to be re-allocated to an alternative list of projects.
Disappointingly one of their proposals was to allocate money in support of 20 minute-neighbourhoods.
I have a longstanding objection to the Norwich Western Link road. This is well documented and the reasons for logged. But, I will not vote for or support any move towards the establishment of 20 minute neighbourhoods.
Myself and a fellow Cllr therefore tabled an amendment to the Green motion that removed the recommendation to reinvest money into 20 minute neighbourhoods. If the amendment were approved, the original motion would have simply called for the Western Link road to be scrapped. Our amendment was defeated however, but so was the whole Green motion, thankfully.
This is all a bit complicated as it involves motions and amendments and Council procedure rules but the long and short of it is attempts by the Greens to allocate money towards 20 minute neighbourhoods have been rejected.
For now the Western Link road limps on. In my view any funds "saved" from scrapping the Western Link should be used to fund our core services that are in a desperate state. We have an adult social care system in crisis, children's services lacking funding to properly support all of Norfolk's children and a public transport system that's woefully inadequate - to name just a few of our challenges. As was highlighted today, rather than building new roads the County Council should be taking better care of our existing road network!
I am pleased that the Green motion was rejected by the Council today, but maintain my view that the Western Link road is unjustifiable and unaffordable.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Responding to some of the usual election lies....

When you're a Councillor, and particularly at election time, you kind of get used to all manner of things being said about you.

Some of it is a sort of twisted truth, some of it is a complete lie.

I don't normally respond to such rubbish - people spreading such untruths will never change their ways, they'll never listen to the alternative narrative and certainly never admit that they are wrong. They clearly don't bother to do any research but spread hate and misinformation gleefully.

However, seeing as I have a bit of time spare this morning, I thought I would respond to a couple of the things floating around on various anonymous Facebook pages:

1. "Councillor Terry Jermy is the highest paid Councillor in Norfolk" - hilarious! All Councillor allowances are published online on the relevant Council websites. It is blatantly clear to see that I am not the highest paid Councillor on Breckland, or Norfolk. In fact, some Councillors are paid more than double what I am. 

2. "Terry Jermy overspent his budget when he was Mayor of Thetford" - I was Mayor in 2016/17, and people are still peddling this nonsense. I finished my Mayoral year with money to spare, visited several hundred events and activities during the year and raised £6,000 for local charities - a sum much greater than most Thetford Mayor's achieve. Approx halfway through my Mayoral year staff highlighted that I might run out of funds because I was so busy, and from that the rumour began - pushed by several Councillors who did nothing but try to undermine me during my year. However, most Mayor's have to use part of their 'allowance' to fund their end of term Mayoral Ball. Charity balls are very difficult to make profitable, that's why so many Mayoral Balls have been cancelled in recent years. Council funds literally need to be used to cover some of the costs and that money gets taken from the Mayoral allowance. I've always felt uncomfortable about public money being used to essentially help pay for a private knees up. £500 had been set aside to help with my event, but, I had already secured an external sponsor, a local estate agents, who donated the money to help cover the costs. Problem solved and there was now no risk of any over spending. Oh, and my Ball sold out, we literally had to squeeze in an extra table - so rather than being a drain on council funds, the event made an actual profit, hurrah for charity (which ironically is the sole purpose of the ball but rarely do Town Council balls make a profit). 

3. "If Cllr Jermy really has Thetford's best interests at heart then ask him how he managed to overspend his budget by £30,000 last year and why the Council Tax payers of Thetford have had to fund his incompetence by way of a 20% hike in their bill this year"

I don't have a budget as a Councillor. I am Chair of the Amenities Committee, who does have a budget. The only additional 'power' I have as Chair is that I get to use a casting vote in the event of a tied vote amongst committee members. The budget is the committee's budget and we are all equally responsible. The current finance figures are draft, but show that expenditure is significantly lower than budgeted - no overspending. But income is also down. Largely because we have not received anticipated income from the Rural Payments Agency - they pay the council for it to manage its land (common land mainly) in a way that supports conservation. We do not know at this point if that money is delayed, or will never come. Have previous committees over estimated the income? possibly. Has the council not submitted all of the claims and is due some more money? also possible. All of this was explained by the Finance Manager to the committee at the April meeting - available on Youtube if you want to watch. There was approx £8,000 of additional expenditure that wasn't anticipated. Due to an error by the committee back in 2016, and an error by officers, we've been forced to repay £8,000 to the rural payments agency for fencing around castle park. The payment should have been made by a certain date and it wasn't and a recent audit highlighted this so the current amenities committee has lost £8,000 due to an error in 2016. Who was Chairman of the committee in 2016? Brenda Canham. Is this £8,000 mistake hers alone? of course not.

4. 20% hike in Council Tax bills - I voted against the original proposal to increase Council Tax by 30%. When the voted was taken to increase it by 20% at the January meeting, I was absent, my father passed away two days before the meeting. Had I of been there, I'd have voted against. The Town Council is wasteful, we do not get value for money, they rely too easily on whacking up council tax without looking for new sources of income or reducing costs. I make these points nearly every year but of course, that doesn't stop people trying to blame me for Thetford's council tax going up, which is entirely untrue.

Thursday 23 February 2023

Breckland Council Budget Meeting - February 2023


Chairman, we have all seen the decline of our high streets - both locally and nationally. It is important that we all recognise the value of these spaces economically, culturally, and recreationally. Breckland Council has a crucial role in supporting our town centres, a role in making them places that people want to visit and importantly, spend money.


To be places that people want to visit there must be shops worth going to. When I look at the empty shops in Thetford they are often sadly long term empty properties. Large corporations that do need seem to care that they are empty, sucking the life and vibrancy out of our communities. When myself or others enquire about rents, they’re often at levels unaffordable with terms that do not make sense. It’s tough running a small business, I know myself as a run one, I speak to dozens of small businesses every month through that role. There is talent in our district, creative thinking, entrepreneurialism, but forces too great for individuals to overcome are preventing progress. We need the councils backing.


This proposal is simple, it uses Breckland Councils soon to be more generous capital reserves to purchase shop units in the district, allowing affordable rents and terms to be set, specifically to support local entrepreneurs and small businesses. With an estimated return of around 4%, this proposal would make no difference to our revenue budget, rents matching our returns from bank interest, but it will provide new opportunities for people to trade. And this council will own the capital asset. The new support with paying the rent for 6 months for businesses moving to the town centre is to be welcomed, the new Puddin shop in Thetford is a great example, but it is short term and not sustainable, what happens when the grant runs out, what happens if the rents change. Why are we as a council prepared to pay off other landlord’s mortgages, but not look to own such assets ourselves? We need to be bold.


This amendment also looks to continue the MTI scheme, no, not with murals or clocks for Dereham, conveniently kicked into the long grass until after the May elections, but with facilities that the public quite rightly have been campaigning for and recognise as a barrier to people visiting. Amenities such as new public toilets can be supported by this fund, with the hope that Town Councils will join and match fund wherever possible.


I urge you colleagues to support this amendment.