Jeremy Corbyn says deeper thought needed over devolution plans for East Anglia

Jeremy Corbyn MP visiting NTS (Norfolk Training Services). Talking to commercial director James Maso

Jeremy Corbyn MP visiting NTS (Norfolk Training Services). Talking to commercial director James Mason with Clive Lewis MP.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Leaders need to think more deeply about devolution plans which include proposals for an elected mayor for East Anglia, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

During a visit to Norwich the Labour leader said they needed to make sure that powers were not devolved to a body that was remote and unaccountable, making it clear he did not back the current plans as they stand.

Mr Corbyn was speaking during a visit to training company Norfolk Training Services ahead of local council elections next month where he met apprentices learning cabinet making and mechanical skills.

He also exchanged jam recipes with one of the company's kitchen apprentices who had cooked him lunch of scones and pastries.

His party is split locally over whether to back plans for an elected mayor in return for transport and strategic planning.

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While the Labour leader at Norfolk County Hall George Nobbs is in favour of devolution, Labour leader at City Hall in Norwich Alan Waters and county councillor Steve Morphew have expressed concerns about the plans for a mayor and detail of the plan.

Mr Morphew, a former leader of Norwich City Council, set himself at odds with his group leader at County Hall when he said the deal had 'flaws at every turn'.

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Mr Corbyn said: 'What I want is a deal that is democratically acceptable to both the communities and the Labour Party. We need to make sure we don't end up with devolution to a body which is not remote and unaccountable. We need mayors that are accountable to an elected local authority rather than a plethora of local authorities. This is a problem area. I think we need to be thinking a bit more deeply about this. He acknowledged it had been controversial, adding: 'It is not a done deal yet by any means'.

'I am concerned about central government services being passed over to the new combined authorities without being accompanied by sufficient funding which means there is a problem down the line. There has to be sufficient funding. What the government has not addressed is the inequalities of local government funding. Cities areas tend to lose out at the expense of other areas. Devolving income levels to local taxation is not necessarily a fair thing to do because local taxation base - the business rate income - varies across the country.

'As things stand I want to discuss it much more and see a number of democratic tests being passed.'

Mr Corbyn was in the city ahead of this year's local council election. One third of the seats on Norwich City Council are up for election.

He said that he was making no predictions about how his party would do.

But he said he had seen many people who had joined the party from all sorts of backgrounds.

'We have got a very big party and very active now.'

He said he hoped that people would recognise that they were challenging the economic agenda of the government and claimed they had already forced it back on a number of things. 'What we are showing is we are an effective opposition. Why are we an effective opposition? Because we are canvassing outside parliament as well as inside parliament.'

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