It’s time to put brakes on dash for devolution

Norman Lamb speaking at the Liberal Democrats annual conference at Bournemouth International Centre.

Norman Lamb speaking at the Liberal Democrats annual conference at Bournemouth International Centre. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September, 22, 2015. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Let's put the brakes on this headlong dash for devolution in Norfolk and Suffolk.

That's the message today from the Eastern Daily Press and our sister title the East Anglian Daily Times, the flagship daily newspapers serving the counties where so much is at stake.

We're saying a more measured approach to an issue which will affect all our readers is crucial.

That is why we have submitted a string of questions to the government, our councils and the New Anglia Local Enterprise – which has a key role in the ongoing talks.

Those questions include:

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Why does this have to be so rushed?

If the end result is a combined Norfolk/Suffolk authority, how would that be accountable to the public?

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Would there be an elected mayor?

What has this cost the taxpayer so far and what would it cost in the future?

Has consideration been given to other options, such as unitary authorities?

Supporters say it will reap dividends, but critics have attacked the government's timetable and a lack of transparency over the process.

Nigel Pickover, editor of the EDP said: 'This is a vitally important debate and yet it is being rushed through, seemingly to suit the government. What a ridiculous irony, that a debate over taking powers away from Whitehall should be taking place with such pressure from above. What is needed is a careful, measured and transparent debate, so everyone in our region is clear on what the pros and cons of devolution would be.'

Terry Hunt, editor of the EADT, said: 'I've had meetings with a number of local politicians about the issue of devolution and I've asked them all the same question – what will it mean for the people of Suffolk.

'None of them have been able to give me a clear answer. I don't believe this is because they're being evasive – it's because they genuinely don't know the answer.

'Yet despite the uncertainty and lack of clarity the government is expecting what could be monumental change to be pushed through at breakneck speed.

'What we're saying is that no major decisions should be taken until the whole picture is much clearer.'

Former health minister Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said he was supportive of devolution, but criticised the 'chaotic' process.

He said: 'My view is that this appears to be chaotic. I do not think the public of Norfolk has any real understanding of what is going on. My fear is that this timetable is being driven by the need for an announcement at the Conservative party conference.'

What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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