Norfolk MP backing the idea of “super councils”

Lord Andrew Adonis. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. Lord Andrew Adonis. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Annabelle Dickson Political Editor
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
9:55 AM

Local government minister and Norfolk MP Brandon Lewis backed Labour’s aim to create more “super-councils”, claiming it would be good to have more of the joint authorities closer to home.

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What is a combined authority?

Lord Adonis has recommended that local councils in England should come together to form a series of “regional economic powerhouses” in an effort to boost growth and close the “vast inequalities in wealth between the different parts of the country”.

Combined authorities, dubbed “super councils”, are legal structures which may be set up by two or more local authorities.

It is argued that they are better placed to tackle entrenched problems of poor skills, infrastructure and economic development.

It must include membership from all local authorities in its area – it cannot include, for instance, part of a county council area and they can take on transport and economic development functions.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority was established in 2011 and West Yorkshire, Sheffield and Liverpool also created combined authorities in April.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said yesterday he would accept Labour peer Lord Adonis’s plans to encourage city and county regions to became combined authorities by giving them full control over any increase in business rate revenue.

Great Yarmouth MP Mr Lewis claimed Labour was saying nothing new and his government was already allowing councils to come together.

But added: “They are not top down driven – if the local areas want to come to us and do this and take forward economic and transport regeneration then we will facilitate it. I am really keen to do it. Most of the ones that have been done are in the north and it would be really good to have some closer to home.”

George Nobbs, Labour leader of Norfolk County Council said that while there were advantages in working together – and his council was already working with Suffolk in a partnership deal – attempting to make a formal marriage of authorities was fraught with difficulties.

But he said that if the Adonis Review meant handing more decision-making to authorities, and the resources to do it, “it is all to the good”.

“What is apparent to me is that my experience with the last year being a leader, is that people in local government have a more prudent approach to spending money than many in the private sector.

“We have had to made really tough decisions. We know the value of money and what we can do with it,” he added.

John Fuller, Conservative leader of South Norfolk Council and member of the Local Government Association’s finance panel, said he thought the announcement was “a “bit underwhelming” and raised concerns that a combined authority would create more professional politicians, even further removed from the real people they were designed to serve.

Lord Adonis also said in his review that he would like to see the number of Leps reduced, but wanted to extend their powers.

Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia LEP said: “We are pleased that both Labour and the coalition want to retain and strengthen Local Enterprise Partnerships.

“It is recognition that a business-led approach plays a vital part in regional growth plans and that collaboration between private and public sectors is key to harnessing that growth.”

What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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