Norfolk councils make Westminster power grab
12:26 24 October 2012
Norfolk council leaders are holding talks which could see them grab new powers and millions of pounds from central government in order to boost economic growth.
Under the “city deals” scheme introduced by the coalition, ministers have promised to hand councils central government powers if local authorities show they can use them to regenerate their economy.
So far only the eight largest cities outside London have been granted a city deal. Birmingham won £20m for a new life sciences centre and the area’s councils took control of a £1.5bn investment fund.
Meanwhile in Nottingham councils won control of a £45m venture capital fund and in Liverpool councils took control of an £800m ten-year transport investment fund.
The EDP has learnt that within weeks the Cabinet Office will announce that a second round of city deals will be struck and Norfolk councils are already planning to secure one which would cover the ‘greater Norwich’ area.
Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur said: “The chief executive and I have been talking to the Cabinet Office for a few months now.
“Given that Norwich is a major economic driver for the county and county districts, it made sense to speak with our county partners to see how we could work together.”
She added that details were yet to be written into stone. However Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy indicated that powers the group may ask for could include those over road and rail infrastructure, high-speed broadband delivery and apprenticeships and skills training.
He said: “If you look at Norwich, it is such a driver of the Norfolk economy. We are in a symbiotic relationship with the city. If it benefits Norwich it benefits Norfolk and visa versa.
“I want a city deal that would go over the city boundaries and into county areas. The boundaries might mark the historic city but they do not mark the economic one.
“If you look at the life sciences sector for example, that is already going on outside city boundaries.”
Mr Murphy suggested that a city deal could also see councils collaborating on development control; so that a firm which, for example, wanted to build a factory which lay across two planning authorities, would only have to deal with one point of local government contact.
He added that the group of authorities is aiming to get a more detailed submission together by the early part of 2013.