Norfolk could miss out on millions because of prime minister Rishi Sunak's controversial pledge to enforce mandatory national service, it has been claimed.

The Conservatives intend to fund their national service policy by closing the UK Shared Prosperity Fund by 2028 and using £1.5bn to support military and volunteering opportunities for 18-year-olds.

But Norfolk County Council's opposition Liberal Democrat group highlighted how some of that money is supposed to be heading Norfolk's way as part of a new £600m deal for the county.

Under that devolution deal - which would see powers transferred from Whitehall to Norfolk - the county council is due to be planning and delivering the use of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund from 2025/26.

The idea is that the council will use the cash to boost skills and support businesses.

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: Brian Watkins, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at Norfolk County CouncilBrian Watkins, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Norfolk Liberal Democrats)

But Brian Watkins, leader of County Hall's Lib Dem group, fears the national service scheme could see that money repurposed.

At a recent council meeting, he said: "This announcement is concerning, comes without consultation and will surely be a detriment to the country’s, and Norfolk's, long-term levelling-up ambitions.

"Can the leader reassure residents that this policy will not be to the detriment of the levelling-up of Norfolk, and what repercussions could the ending of this fund have for our long-term plans?"

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason BilligNorfolk County Council leader Kay Mason Billig (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Kay Mason Billig, leader of the Conservative-controlled council, said the deal was a "bespoke arrangement with government".

She said: "We remain positive that the next government will want to honour this additional commitment to Norfolk, its residents and businesses."

The Conservative Party was approached for comment, but did not respond, although Mr Sunak has defended his party's levelling up efforts on the campaign trail.

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: Rishi SunakRishi Sunak

READ MORE: Will the general election scupper Norfolk's devolution deal?

The Norfolk devolution deal was agreed in principle in December 2022.

It includes an investment fund of £20m a year for 30 years, control of the £12m budget for adult education, and £7m for brownfield development.

While it does not come with a mayor, or the creation of a new tier of government known as a combined authority, it would see the public vote for a directly-elected leader of Norfolk County Council.

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquartersNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters (Image: Mike Page)

The first election would be in May next year.

The council is due to vote next month on changes to its governance to allow that to happen.