Leaked documents reveal devolution deal for East Anglia - including new taxes and Oyster cards
PUBLISHED: 08:44 27 February 2016 | UPDATED: 19:52 27 February 2016
Oyster card-style tickets and an over-arching Transport for the East responsible for funding our rail and roads are among plans being considered as part of the East Anglian devolution deal.
The details have emerged in a leaked draft for the Eastern Powerhouse, which also demands new tax-raising and house building powers and calls for more property levies to be raised and kept locally.
The small print emerged as leaders yesterday met Treasury minister Lord O’Neill in Westminster to discuss the three-county devolution deal.
The first draft – published on February 18 – comes after months of meetings and talks which has culminated in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgshire councils and business leaders working together.
The eight-page dossier also raises the prospect of giving local authority leaders the powers to impose a new tourism or room levy, which is not currently legal in the UK; a demand to keep half of the stamp duty raised locally; and powers to fine developers with planning permission who do not start building.
It comes with a demand for an extra £1bn for the region over the next two years to deliver what they claim would be the first deal which includes both county and unitary councils.
Leaders say they were told yesterday that the Treasury was “excited” by the proposals put together by the cohort of councils, which include the district and county councils of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, along with the Peterborough unitary authority.
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “It was a very encouraging meeting. We will have further meetings early next week.”
While West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney, who is negotiating on behalf of leaders in Norfolk, said they had made the case for the area, comparing it to other areas which are also looking for new powers through devolution.
He said that details had not been discussed, but there had been a general agreement that they should go forward with the plans.
Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble said he believed that an agreement to bring devolution to East Anglia could be signed by the end of next week following the Treasury talks.
He said there would be intense discussions about the elements to be included during the early part of next week – and the result could be the establishment of a combined authority with responsibility for a number of functions including transport and health.
He said one of the main priorities would be working with Highways England to improve the A14 across Suffolk, but other roads, such as the A12 and A140, also needed attention.
There is already a route strategy being worked up for the A140 in Suffolk and there are improvements needed to the Norfolk end of the road as well, particularly a bypass for Long Stratton.
The county council has already committed resources to building a case for a four villages by-pass on the A12 between Wickham Market and Saxmundham.
On health, Mr Noble said there was a need for a combined authority to take a role in co-ordinating health care, but he did not necessarily see it taking on responsibility for running hospitals or direct healthcare.
But if there is an agreement next week, Mr Noble said this would just be the start of the devolution process.
“Look at what has happened in Manchester. They signed their agreement months ago and they are still talking about how it will work and what services it will be responsible for. If we do get something signed over the next week, it will only be the start of a long journey.
The draft proposal document asks the government to create a 30-year multi-billion pound “Investment Fund for the East”, which it says will unlock investment and deliver economic growth.
Major new housing settlements on the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire border and in Mildenhall on the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk border are also mentioned in the deal.
On the draft, Mr Daubney said: “What we are saying is if the East of England is to reach its full potential, this is the sort of investment we need.”
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