Cabinet minister predicts Labour will re-take Norwich North

Steve DownesCabinet minister and Canaries fan Ed Balls predicted a short reign in Norwich North for the Tories as he forecast that Labour would 'absolutely' win it back at the looming general election.Steve Downes

Cabinet minister and Canaries fan Ed Balls predicted a short reign in Norwich North for the Tories as he forecast that Labour would 'absolutely' win it back at the looming general election.

The constituency was won by Chloe Smith last year, in a by-election triggered by the resignation of Dr Ian Gibson after he became embroiled in the MPs' expenses scandal.

Yesterday, schools secretary Mr Balls was out with Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for the seat, John Cook.

The pair visited Dussindale Primary on Vane Close in Thorpe St Andrew before going door-to-door in Norwich North to whip up support.

While at Dussindale Primary, Mr Balls was bullish about his party's chances.

He said: 'I will be back in Norwich to do a fundraiser for John before the Norwich v Leeds match, which I'll be attending. It's really important that Norwich has two Labour MPs.

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'Norwich is a Labour city and is a city that has seen some major improvements in health and education services under a Labour government. Winning back the seat is definitely realistic.'

He added: 'I regret what happened to Ian Gibson, but John was Ian's agent and he's backing John. This is absolutely winnable for us. I don't want the people of Norwich to be short-changed.

'The fact that John says 'mooral' instead of 'mural' shows that he is a local candidate.'

Mr Balls also gave his backing to the recent decision to give Norwich control of all its services, including education and social services.

He said: 'This is a city which has to speak loud and clear for its own interests. It's really important that when it takes on responsibility for education and schools that we give it all the support we can.

'There are lots of examples of cities with unitary status. I think it's good news for Norwich.'

The cabinet minister, who grew up in Bawburgh, near Norwich, and who regularly watches his beloved Norwich City - including a planned trip to the Galpharm Stadium to watch them play Huddersfield on Saturday - dismissed talk of a classroom cash crisis in Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council has called a conference on March 18 at Carrow Road's Top of the Terrace to advise heads and governors on how to make ends meet as the financial storm clouds gather. There are predictions that schools could face cuts of up to 2.5pc.

Mr Balls said: 'The funding coming into Norfolk will be rising in real terms this year, next year and the year after that. There will be more money, over and above inflation, for them all. They are wrong to think that funding will be falling.'

After visiting Thorpe St Andrew and Norwich, Mr Balls headed to Great Yarmouth High School for a visit in the wake of the government handing it �12.4m of Building Schools for the Future cash to transform its facilities.

While there, he promised that investing in good education for the area would remain central to his party's policies.

t Is your school struggling to cope with the cash crisis? Call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email