Cross-party push sees Norfolk council leaders weigh up joining forces into combined authorities
- Credit: IAN BURT
Norfolk's council leaders are weighing up how they can join forces amid Labour and Conservative plans to encourage the regions to club together in return for more power.
Labour said this week that it wanted to create new statutory authorities at city and county region level, and chancellor George Osborne has also come out strongly in favour of combined authorities.
Local leaders were briefed in Whitehall last month by senior Tory and Labour MPs.
West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said he wanted to think about it seriously, but it was not top of his agenda until he knew he was re-elected. He warned there should be no 'sacred cow' when it came to where combined authorities were formed.
'I think I would struggle to identify a county structure within a combined authority. It could well go across boundaries. We have had informal discussions and will continue to have informal discussions with our neighbours, including in Cambridgeshire, in Peterborough, in South Holland. Whatever happens the local voter must be able to identify with local services.'
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South Norfolk council leader John Fuller also urged councils to take the proposals seriously.
He said: 'If there are additional powers, and there is no more money from government, we do owe it to taxpayers to at least investigate this.'
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Leaders were told that the combined authorities could build on city deal areas.
Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur welcomed plans to devolve more funding to local authorities. 'Our ideas about what it might look like are still being evolved as we do not think it's something we can rush into. We need to make sure we are working with the right partners and going in the right way. Although clearly we do have the history of the joint core strategy and the growth board of working closely with neighbours to maximise the benefits to local people.'
Great Yarmouth council leader Trevor Wainwright said: 'I know it is on the radar. There will be a drive to do this during the next parliament, whoever is in government after May, but it will be a year or so before they start taking it seriously.'
Which councils do you think should join forces? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk