An 'historic' deal to give Norfolk £600m over the next 30 years and the public a vote for a powerful county 'mayor' has been announced.

The devolution deal would see Norfolk County Council given millions of pounds, plus new powers previously controlled by Whitehall.

Political leaders say that would help get more homes built, bring better transport links, create more jobs and regenerate parts of the county - but critics have said it does not go far enough.

After months of negotiations between County Hall and central government, the council has been offered a county deal, which includes a £20m a year investment fund.

It would also include control of the £10m budget for adult education, £7m for brownfield development, which could see sites in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn developed, plus £5.9m for housing, regeneration and development.

Eastern Daily Press: King's Lynn could be an area where money is used to boost developmentKing's Lynn could be an area where money is used to boost development (Image: Archant 2018)

And the public would get to directly elect a leader for Norfolk County Council in a mayoral-type role in 2024.

The directly elected Norfolk County Council leader role would not be quite the same - or have as many powers - as well-known metro mayors like Greater Manchester's Andy Burnham and Liverpool's Steve Rotheram.

Eastern Daily Press: Greater Manchester mayor Andy BurnhamGreater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (Image: Newsquest)

In those areas, the mayor heads up a combined authority with representatives from other councils, but in Norfolk there will be no such authority.

District councils in Norfolk will not be changed under the terms of the Norfolk deal, although the mayor could choose to set up development corporations in specific areas where regeneration is planned which, potentially, district leaders could chair.

But the idea is the directly-elected leader would carry more clout and could be a figurehead banging the drum for the county when it comes to further funding.

That leader would be in addition to the 84 county councillors and would not represent a county council division.

They would not get a salary, but would be able to claim allowances.

In theory, it could create a situation where the leader is not from the same party which has the majority on the council.

The cabinet - the councillors with responsibility for areas such as adult social care and children's services - would be selected by the leader.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Proctor, Norfolk County Council leaderAndrew Proctor, Norfolk County Council leader (Image: Archant)

But Andrew Proctor, leader of the Conservative-controlled council, said he was confident whoever was elected would "rise above politics" to do what was best for the county.

He said the money was 'extra' cash, in addition to existing funding arrangements, and that Norfolk would not otherwise have had direct control over it, but would have had to engage in bidding wars with other authorities to secure.

Mr Proctor also said the leader could choose to borrow against that £20m investment fund, to further increase the council's spending power - which could be used for major schemes, such as the Norwich Western Link.

He said: "This is an historic day, one that opens the door to real opportunities for Norfolk.

“I’m delighted that Norfolk is well positioned to gain additional powers and money to improve people’s lives, thanks to the county deal we have agreed in principle with the government.

“The aim is for decisions and funding previously controlled in Westminster to be agreed in Norfolk, for Norfolk.

“Striking a deal will help us to boost our economy through jobs, training, housing and development, improve our transport network and support our environment.

“Getting to this point shows that the government sees Norfolk as a can-do county. I’m confident that we will make a success of this and that more powers and funding would follow.”

Eastern Daily Press: Levelling up secretary Michael GoveLevelling up secretary Michael Gove (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Michael Gove, levelling up secretary, who will be in Norfolk today (Thursday) to announce the deal, said it would "put power into the hands of Norfolk".

He said: "We know important decisions are best taken closer to home, by people who know what their challenges are, not by those sitting behind a desk in Whitehall.

“This landmark deal allows leaders in Norfolk to take forward local priorities over the longer term, and it will be for the people of Cromer, Norwich, and Great Yarmouth to elect someone who is best placed to represent their unique interests as a county.

“I look forward to working closely with whoever the new leader is to level up Norfolk and unleash the economic potential of the whole county."

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Archant)

But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: "From what I hear, it seems like a poor deal, which is more about the powers of Conservative politicians and could lead to warfare between their members.

"It's not going to do anything when it comes to social care when we should be focusing on that and the cost of living crisis."

Mr Morphew was also alarmed at the idea of borrowing against the investment fund money - particularly if that was used to bankroll the Western Link.

Eastern Daily Press: An artist's impression of how the Norwich Western Link could lookAn artist's impression of how the Norwich Western Link could look (Image: Newsquest)

He said: "The council is already not far off from having borrowed £1bn and it just does not feel right."

The deal - as is the case for a similar Suffolk one - would still need to go through various council processes and Parliament before it is enacted.