Cambridgeshire rejects Norfolk and Suffolk move to join forces in winning more powers from Westminster

Business secretary Greg Clark. Picture: Archant.

Business secretary Greg Clark. Picture: Archant. - Credit: Archant

An overture from Norfolk and Suffolk to join forces to win more power from Westminster has been rejected by Cambridgeshire's leaders.

Cambridgeshire County Council's top brass have written to their neighbours in Norfolk and Suffolk telling them they will look at an informal partnership but they will not be part of a formal devolution bid to the government.

It comes despite suggestions from communities secretary Greg Clark and his advisor, Lord Heseltine, that leaders should look at the advantages of a three-county deal.

Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils submitted individual bids, but quickly joined forces in September after being told the county bids were not big enough and they should work together. Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs said the decision by Cambridgeshire leaders not to be part of a combined authority left the two-county bid where it was before.

'There were one or two people who continually said that we could not proceed without approaching Cambridgeshire,' he added. 'They wouldn't listen to the fact that we knew Cambridgeshire wasn't behind it, we made the approach in order to put this beyond question. We have their official answer.

'We are on course for our original plan for Norfolk and Suffolk. It would be nice to work with Cambridgeshire, we are fond of them, but it was never there.'

South Norfolk council leader John Fuller said under the devolution laws currently going through parliament the ministers would have powers to decide if devolution deals were adventurous enough. He expected the minister to take a view about whether Cambridgeshire was big enough to compete on the world stage.

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'We will probably have to wait until the bill goes through parliament before the minister can express his opinion. To move more quickly than that would be risky,' he added.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough's leaders said: 'Representatives from authorities across Cambridgeshire and Peter-borough held a workshop to look at what devolution could mean and the benefits this might bring.

'It was agreed that there were important shared areas, such as transport and infrastructure, that authorities would want to work much closely together on. It was suggested that further talks should be had to progress a shared memorandum of understanding. The councils will write to Suffolk and Norfolk inviting them to talk about closer working but not progressing combined authority at this time.'

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