A lack of investment has been blasted as new figures show that more than two-thirds of Norfolk's county council-run schools still contain asbestos.

A freedom of information request submitted by this newspaper shows 127 out of the 176 authority-maintained schools - including 56 in the Norwich area - contain traces of the potentially hazardous substance. 

This ranges from pre-schools and nurseries to primaries and secondaries.

Norwich Evening News: The substance is considered to be harmless if left undisturbedThe substance is considered to be harmless if left undisturbed

While dormant asbestos - which was common in products including building insulation, pipes and floor tiles prior to being banned in 1999 - is considered safe when undisturbed, campaigners have been calling for it to be removed.

Labour MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, blames the Tory government's controversial decision to scrap Labour's Building Schools for the Future project in 2010.

"Pretty much the first thing the Tories did when they won was scrap Labour’s rolling programme for refurbishing and repairing all of our schools," he said. 

"We’ve got asbestos in our schools because the Tories made a political choice to eviscerate our public services and gift annual tax cuts of well over £100bn to their supporters amongst the already wealthy, large corporations and in speculative finance.

Norwich Evening News: North South MP Clive LewisNorth South MP Clive Lewis (Image: Newsquest)

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"Now, the consequence of that has fallen into the laps of the Tory county council, who will no doubt tell us we have to pay for their own government’s ideological self-interest by slashing our local services even more."

Asbestos is believed to be present in around 300 schools across Norfolk, including those not maintained by the local authority.

Prolonged exposure to the substance can prove fatal and has been linked to cancer of the lungs, larynx and ovaries. 

Norwich Evening News: A total of 56 Norwich schools contain the substanceA total of 56 Norwich schools contain the substance (Image: PA)

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A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: "We take the management of asbestos very seriously and it is important to remember that as long as it is left undisturbed and is in a safe condition, it shouldn't be a cause for concern.

"Many schools only have small amounts identified and often in locations children do not access.

"All our schools have access to professional advice and support regarding the management of asbestos, including guidance and training and health and safety visits.

"We also undertake specific inspections to evaluate the condition of materials containing asbestos on a risk basis, registering whatever is found, its location and its condition. Where removal is identified as the best course of action, this is carried out swiftly."

Conservative MP for Norwich North Chloe Smith was contacted for comment.