'Left behind' - call for Norfolk to wrestle powers from government

James Palmer

James Palmer, former elected mayor and chairman of the Eastern Powerhouse - Credit: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Measures outlined in the Queen's Speech do not go far enough to boost growth and investment in the East of England, a former elected mayor has said.

Prime minister Boris Johnson told the Commons, following the state opening of Parliament, that growing the economy was one of the government's "top priorities".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19).

Prime minister Boris Johnson - Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

One way the government says that will happen is through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill -  to drive economic growth across England.

Norfolk and Suffolk have, as part of the government's levelling up white paper, been invited to seek 'county deals' - granting devolution of powers and money.

And a former elected mayor, now chairman of a recently-launched business-led organisation looking to drive investment in the East of England, says the region has been overlooked for too long.

James Palmer, former mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, is now chairman of the Eastern Powerhouse, which was launched in March.

He said: "For too long the East of England has been left behind and overlooked.

"The significant untapped potential of the east of England and what it can contribute to the UK economy has been grossly underestimated.

"Strengthening local accountability via directly elected leaders, such as mayors, is a necessary measure to wrestle power away from central government and achieve the best possible devolution deal for the region.”

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Discussions about a county deal for Norfolk have been taking place in recent months, although there have been differences of opinion over what the county should be pursuing and whether that should involve an elected mayor.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council, said: "I have always been clear that our involvement in the county deal process and getting a deal for Norfolk relies on the government being prepared to devolve significant powers as well as funding to local government – because we are best placed to deliver levelling up in Norfolk."

Mr Proctor added: "I was pleased the Queen’s Speech majored on economic growth, easing the cost of living crisis and the levelling up agenda.

"Economy first will give the people of Norfolk the opportunities we need to weather the current economic situation and recover strongly, on a sustained basis."