Live coverage of crunch meetings over Norfolk and Suffolk devolution deal
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
Crunch meetings over the devolution deal for Norfolk and Suffolk will take place tonight – and if just one authority says 'no' then the deal will be in tatters.
Members of West Norfolk, South Norfolk and Broadland councils will tonight weigh up whether they want to back the government's deal for the two counties.
Supporters say it would bring in £750m of new funding for infrastructure and £130m for new homes, but critics are unhappy the government insists a new mayor must form part of a combined authority.
All eyes tonight are likely to be on West Norfolk, where North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham has made no secret of his opposition to the deal currently offered.
He has circulated a document on devolution to West Norfolk Conservatives, in which he suggests that if the deal – complete with an elected mayor – is rejected, there will be a chance further down the road to negotiate a new one, which he says could be Norfolk only.
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That seems to contradict a letter secretary of state Sajid Javid sent council leaders. He said if the deal was not taken, the economic benefits would 'not be available to Norfolk by any other route' and the government would work with 'other local areas which are committed to taking devolution forward'.
But Sir Henry said ministers had made clear to him there could be a second chance in the phase two deals - which may not include mayors.
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He said: 'It's not for me to tell councillors how to vote. All I can do is brief them, but I am fairly confident the vote will go against it. I am not against devolution, but I am saying to local councillors if they do not think it is right for west Norfolk and, if we could get a better deal in year and a half's time, then they should consider that.'
West Norfolk leader Brian Long has previously stressed his group would be given a free vote, but that he hoped the council would back the deal. He had described Sir Henry's opposition as 'not helpful'.