Labour to hold first regional cabinet meeting - but East Anglia won’t have a seat

Labour leader Ed Miliband

Labour leader Ed Miliband - Credit: Archant

East Anglia will not have seat at Labour's first English regional cabinet committee today as leader Ed Miliband travels to Manchester to deliver his plan to 'spread the recovery' to the regions.

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs, who is the leader of the biggest local authority in the East of England, said he would 'certainly have gone' if an invitation had been extended, adding: 'There is more to England than half a dozen northern cities'.

The party said today's meeting was the first and it mostly involved North-West leaders, but claimed there would be further meetings in other regions.

Mr Miliband, who faces increasing criticism amid a poll which shows Labour would be left with just four seats in Scotland if a general election was held tomorrow, is heading to the Northern hub to unveil his plan to 'spread power and prosperity across England'.

But his blueprint to give regions 'London-style' public transport powers to give local leaders powers to set routes and fares, enshrine in law £30 billion of devolved spending, and encourage so-called 'city and county regions', has not been wholeheartedly welcomed by all in his party.

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Labour's leadership will say today that it will allow each region to come together to create 'combined authorities' to run transport, and elect a leader, but only if it wants.

But the Norfolk council leader said more thought was needed, and warned there would be constitutional problems with a 'pick and mix, laissez-faire, 'you can have the power if you want it' plan.

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He welcomed regional decision making on infrastructure and educational skills, but said: 'To be credible, every part of England has to have the same rights and powers, You may have a temporary leadership who does not want the powers and you will have people who are disenfranchised. I think it is unjust for people in one district to have these powers and people in another district not to on the whim of who is leader that day. More thought needs to go into this.'

'I have made my views plain. I will continue to do.'

But Mr Miliband will claim today that the transport powers would help more services to be integrated and fares set.

Mr Miliband will said: 'The recovery may be helping the most powerful and privileged but, in cities and towns across our country, everyday working people are feeling the pain of the longest cost-of-living crisis in a century as sharply as ever. Labour has a radical plan for spreading power and prosperity across England's city and county regions, so that the recovery reaches your town square – not just the Square Mile of the City of London.'

'For too long powers to regulate and integrate bus services have been enjoyed only by London. For too long, the other regions of England have been unable to plan ahead or join up their transport networks to help secure the prosperity they need. For too long everyday working people have found their journey to work made harder and more expensive than it needs to be by a deregulated system that fails to serve the public interest.'

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