Confusion over deadline led to devolution dash, Norfolk council leader admits

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs.

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Confusion over the deadline for a devolution deal application meant it has been rushed, Norfolk County Council's leader has admitted.

And county councillors have hit out at their lack of involvement so far in what would be a major shake-up for local government.

But they have agreed to the principle of a Norfolk and Suffolk combined authority, despite their concerns.

George Nobbs, Labour leader of Norfolk County Council, told fellow councillors: 'A criticism you could validly make is that this has been rushed and there has been no opportunity for councillors to give consent. That is absolutely true, but the timetable is not one of our making.'

Mr Nobbs said the deadline of September 4, for getting in an expression of interest was not initially thought to apply to Norfolk.

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He said: 'We all believed at one point it did not apply to authorities outside the north of England. Late in the day there seemed to be a change and the message we were getting was that September 4 was a deadline, at least for putting in an expression of interest.'

Both Norfolk and Suffolk lodged expressions of interest for devolved powers on county lines, although the government subsequently said it would look more favourably on a Norfolk/Suffolk bid.

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That has been the focus of subsequent meetings, with negotiations between council leaders, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the government continuing.

Mr Nobbs stressed the combined authority, if it happens, would not see a merger of councils.

He said it would seek powers councils do not currently have, along with the resources to use those powers.

Alison Thomas, Conservative councillor for Long Stratton, said the issue should come before the full council.

She said: 'The 84 councillors have to have their say. We should be ensuring this comes to full council as an emergency item because we want to be absolutely clear we are representing the best interests of Norfolk residents.'

A special council meeting is to be convened.

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