Councillors raise worries about devolution proposal

Norfolk County Council have agreed to push ahead with negotiations for a deal on devolution for Norf

Norfolk County Council have agreed to push ahead with negotiations for a deal on devolution for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. - Credit: PA

The government's plan to devolve power to a new combined authority with an elected mayor covering Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire has suffered a series of blows.

Chancellor George Osborne announced the proposal in last week's budget, and 22 of 23 local authorities have signed up to debate the draft document.

Supporters said it would give the region control over millions of pounds to spend on transport and housing.

However, yesterday:

Cambridgeshire councillors voted overwhelmingly to send the draft devolution deal back to the Treasury to be renegotiated

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Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters signalled his opposition to the idea of an elected mayor covering the three counties

The only formal contender to become the next leader of Breckland Council raised concerns about plans for an elected mayor

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At yesterday's meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council, 64 councillors backed a motion which 'regrets that the deal, in its current form, is not acceptable to this council'.

One member abstained on the vote on the motion; no-one voted against.

The draft agreement – worth £30m a year for the next 30 years, with a further £175m to boost housing – was also raised at a meeting of Norwich City Council last night.

Mr Waters, who signed the draft agreement, said the council was not legally committed to joining the plans, and said his soundings with councillors from all parties had shown support for a non-mayoral option, and said the council's consultation on the issue would highlight alternatives to having an elected mayor.

Ahead of the meeting, he said the mayoral proposal was 'the antithesis of local democracy', and rated the chances of the proposals being in place next year as '50:50'.

The only formal contender for a top Norfolk district council job has raised concerns about plans for a Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire elected mayor.

Former Conservative Breckland council leader William Nunn has said he wants to return to the post he quit three years ago after Michael Wassell said he was standing down because of 'personal and private reasons'.

Mr Nunn said: 'Devolution is going to be a much bigger challenge than we have faced in the past.

'There's been some concern about where we are with it, and I think people are sceptical about a united Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire situation.'

Councillors had expected a visit today from chancellor George Osborne, but later learned there would be no visit for the time being.

What do you think of the devolution deal? Email

Devolution: the business battle – See business section

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