Great Yarmouth joins neighbouring Norfolk councils in rejecting devolution deal as Suffolk councils approve across the board
- Credit: Geraldine Scott
Another Norfolk council has joined Norwich, North Norfolk and Breckland in rejecting the government's devolution proposals.
Great Yarmouth councillors overwhelmingly threw out the plans, which include an elected mayor for a joint Norfolk and Suffolk authority which would have more power.
But South Norfolk and West Norfolk councils voted in favour, and while Norfolk remains split on the deal, Suffolk's councils have completed the job of approving the government's devolution proposals. Both Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal approved the plans, meaning a clean sweep for the county.
Now the decision has to be made on what happens next - and what the future holds for dissenting councils if the scheme goes ahead regardless. Whitehall sources were keen to 'crack on', but with four Norfolk councils strongly opposed, the government has to decide how to proceed, preoccupied as it is with the fall-out from the referendum vote to leave the EU and the election of a new Conservative leader.
Great Yarmouth Conservative council leader Graham Plant voted in favour of the deal, albeit with reservations. He said leaders were told that without an elected mayor there would be no deal. But he said it was 'one of the best devolution deals in England' and that it was unique to see central government pass more control of money down to local councils. But 33 of his fellow-councillors, including UKIP and Labour members, disagreed.
Kay Grey, leader of the UKIP group, said: 'Doesn't it sound like some kind of utopia? The government should give us enough money without this.'
Leader of the labour group, Trevor Wainwright, said: 'We're consistently being told there's no money and people in Yarmouth are suffering because of that. And the money wouldn't be coming to local government, it would be going to another level of government.'
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South Norfolk approved the scheme with 35 in favour, one against and one abstention. In West Norfolk 34 councillors were in favour with 12 against and two abstentions.
Council leader Brian Long, who gave his party a free vote, said: 'Someone said 'there's not enough money', well, there's never enough money. This is devolution deal one, if it progresses there will be further devolved deals.
'No deal is perfect but I do believe passionately that the public should have the right to voice their opinion.'
Suffolk County Council voted 40-23 to approve the deal, but not without a substantial rebellion in the ruling Conservative group.
The rebels were joined by UKIP councillors and some other opposition members who rejected the proposals because of concerns about democracy.
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