Consultation over East Anglian devolution launched - and will cost at least £130,000

The East Anglia flag flying at County Hall in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The East Anglia flag flying at County Hall in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Public consultation over proposals for a devolution deal for East Anglia will cost a minimum of £130,000, it can be revealed.

Two deals to devolve powers from Whitehall are currently on the table – one for Norfolk and Suffolk and one for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Each deal would have a combined authority and directly elected mayor, with the government prepared to transfer powers, such as over transport and infrastructure.

The government is offering £750m over 30 years to spend on new roads, transport links, and another £100m over the next five years to help build affordable homes, plus an additional £30m over the same period specifically for Norwich and Ipswich.

Four councils in Norfolk – Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Breckland and North Norfolk – voted not to back the deal but the remaining authorities are pushing ahead with consultation.

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The basic cost of the whole consultation, which includes an Ipsos-Mori telephone survey of 3,000 people across Norfolk and Suffolk, and an online questionnaire, is £130,000, But, with some councils also producing their own leaflets, the final figure will be higher.

Cliff Jordan, lLeader of Norfolk County Council said: 'This devolution deal could lead to something bigger. There's more funding for services at a time when there isn't going to be much money coming out of Whitehall. It is now up to the public to decide whether they want a mayor for a combined authority.

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'I want to hear from the people of Norfolk about how they feel about decisions being taken closer to home rather than in Whitehall, and what they think of the deal that's on offer.'

Andy Wood, independent chair of the East Anglia Leaders Group said: 'With majority support across Norfolk and Suffolk and complete support across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough it is right that communities now have the opportunity to have their say on devolution proposals for East Anglia. Norfolk and Suffolk has one of the best potential settlements in the country.'

However, the questions posed in the consultation have been criticised by former Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs as painting too rosy a picture.

He also said the process was 'riding roughshod' in carrying out consultation in areas where district councils had decided not to back the consultation.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said he would be interested to know what people in the city thought of an elected mayor, but said he was not convinced devolution would ever happen.

He said: 'Given the uncertainty with what the government will be concerned about come October, when the councils will make final decisions, in terms of having what will effectively be a new government trying to deal with the European Union exit, I wonder how high devolution will be on their agenda.'

People can have their say by visiting here and completing the online survey or the hard copy version.

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