Devolution deal for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to get first full council airing at County Hall

The flag of East Anglia, flying over County Hall. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

The flag of East Anglia, flying over County Hall. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Submitted

The increasingly thorny subject of devolution for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, which would see an elected mayor for the region, will get its first full council airing at County Hall today, amid concerns over the deal.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in last month's budget that an Eastern Powerhouse would be created, with a draft devolution deal on the table for the three counties.

If agreed, the deal, which needs to be put to 22 local authorities, would see the Treasury hand over £30m a year for the next 30 years, along with £175m of housing money.

The new mayor, as chairman of a combined authority, would get to draw up spending plans for transport, strategic planning, and major government infrastructure projects.

But the government's insistence that there must be an elected mayor has been criticised by some. Norwich City Council's Labour leader Alan Waters and newly re-elected Conservative Breckland District Council leader William Nunn have both signalled their opposition to that role.

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East Cambridgeshire Council will decide its stance on Wednesday, while at last month'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'.

Perhaps significantly, no comparable motion has been put forward for today's meeting of Norfolk County Council. And, as it stands, the meeting is not likely to come down to a yes or no vote on whether to press ahead with devolution.

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But, with Labour county councillor Steve Morphew having already set himself at odds with his leader George Nobbs when he recently said the deal has 'flaws at just about every turn', and Conservative Ian Monson and Green Adrian Dearnley signalling they agreed with much of what he said, opposition could be aired.

However, Mr Nobbs said it would be premature to debate too much at this stage in the ongoing negotiations. He said: 'The time for full-blown discussion will be both in June, when the council is due to decide on consultation with the people of Norfolk and then, after they have had their say, when we make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the deal at the end of September.

'Those will be vital choices about the future of Norfolk and East Anglia, which will affect whether future decisions are taken in Whitehall or in East Anglia.'

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