Norfolk councils should not be seen to be tagged onto Suffolk devolution deal, says Broadland leader

Councillor Andrew Proctor.

Councillor Andrew Proctor. - Credit: Submitted

Broadland's council leader has said any new devolution blueprint must benefit his district and should not be seen as a Suffolk deal with a couple of bodies tagged onto it.

Speaking after a meeting of willing council leaders whose authorities backed a plan for an extra £30m a year of spending decisions to be put in the hands of an elected mayor, Andrew Proctor said they must continue the relationship with communities secretary Sajid Javid, because the issue remained on the national agenda.

Mr Proctor also cautioned MPs who have raised the prospect of local government changes.

North-West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, a strong opponent of the original plan, said he wanted to act as a 'sort of convener' of Norfolk MPs and council leaders to decide a 'blueprint' for Norfolk, while Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman has called for local leaders in Norfolk to develop a new plan for public services, suggesting there could be 'one-stop-shop' unitary councils.

But Mr Proctor said: 'I think the MPs need to be careful about what they are saying or trying to say to local government. They have not all been too helpful to local government through the process leading up to devolution votes. I am sceptical of MPs saying this is what we should do.'

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Broadland and South Norfolk have both agreed to continue discussions after an original deal was officially taken off the table by the government when West Norfolk rejected the plans earlier this month.

'We are happy to consider and keep a dialogue going and discussion provided it meets the proviso of benefiting Broadland,' he said.

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But he added: 'This is not about Suffolk devolution with a couple of the bodies tagged onto it. It is a potential new relationship. It is all about economic growth and the fact there is money now not on the table we would like to get a slice of to generate economic growth.

'We need the money for building the homes, getting the jobs through and the infrastructure support. It is all mixed around this whole primary agenda of economic growth.'

He said that the future structure of a deal and whether any future proposal would include an elected mayor was 'ignored' at this week's meeting, with the focus put on promoting economic growth.

'This is where I think the local authorities have got to get their act together and say this is what they want to achieve. Rather than government saying this is it. There is an opportunity to do something different. Here we are. The business plan, the strategy has got to be formulated. If we do go and see the secretary of state, and if he is receptive, then we can say here is our plan.'

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