East Anglia could get two different devolution deals - but specifics remain under wraps
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
Proposals for two devolution deals for East Anglia were put to the government today - but their specifics remain under-wraps with the chief negotiator fearing making them public could 'weaken our negotiating position'.
It comes amid calls for a referendum from Green Party councillors in Norfolk and Suffolk who have written to negotiator Andy Wood setting out concerns about the prospect of an elected mayor with far reaching powers.
Following a meeting in Whitehall this morning, Dr Wood issued a statement saying he had put forward the proposal from leaders for two deals - one for Suffolk and Norfolk and one for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It is not clear if the new proposals drawn up by leaders still include an elected mayor.
Dr Wood said in his statement the two deals would be discussed with the government and would be based on the content of the original deal agreement which was signed by leaders in March and announced in the budget.
The March deal was worth £30m each year for 30 years with £175m extra for housing and it remained unclear if there would be more money available.
It is understood that communities secretary Greg Clark told Dr Wood that there was already a good three county deal on the table which the government was happy with - but it was a 'bottom up' process and up to East Anglia to decide what it wanted to do and to get consensus.
Dr Wood, who is the independent chairman of the East Anglia leaders group said in his statement: 'All leaders remain fully committed to securing an ambitious devolution settlement for residents and businesses across East Anglia. Negotiations with government are positive and progressing well. Government is certainly listening to East Anglia, however, to talk more specifically about proposals at this point has the potential to weaken our negotiating position.
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'The ball is now firmly in our court. Locally we must conclude our discussions and present Government with our proposed deals. Government has been clear that councils will need to approve the deals locally before they will formally agree them. A full public consultation will take place in the summer to allow local people and businesses to have their say on the plans.'
But Green Norfolk county councillor Richard Bearman and Suffolk county councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer issued a joint statement saying a revised East Anglian devolution agreement should be put to a public referendum.
'A referendum could reasonably be held in May 2017, with elections for the Combined Authority taking place in May 2018.