Motion against mayor of Norfolk rubbished as 'premature'

Great Yarmouth Town Hall, Trevor Wainwright and Carl Smith

The motion was rejected at a meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, at the town hall (pictured) last week. Upper inset: Labour opposition leader Trevor Wainwright, who proposed the motion. Lower inset: Conservative council leader Carl Smith, who rubbished the motion as "premature". - Credit: Brittany Woodman/Ella Wilkinson

A motion calling on Great Yarmouth’s council to reject proposals for a mayor of Norfolk has been rubbished as “premature” by the authority’s leader.

The motion, which failed to win majority support, was put forward at a meeting last week by Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s (GYBC) Labour opposition leader, Trevor Wainwright.

Mr Wainwright fears the potential creation of a Norfolk mayor would diminish the powers of district, borough and city councils, or wipe them away entirely. 

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

The council's Labour opposition leader Trevor Wainwright - Credit: Archant

The councillor was responding to a white paper published by the government in February.

The document outlined plans to ‘level up’ the UK, which it said would be accomplished by spreading power and opportunity beyond London and the south-east to more overlooked parts of the country. 

Among the commitments it made was an invitation for Norfolk to agree a ‘county deal’ with the government, with power devolved down from Whitehall.

"The most comprehensive devolution package will only be available to areas with a directly-elected mayor", the government has said.

The Town Hall in Great Yarmouth on January 17, 2022.

The motion was discussed at Great Yarmouth Town Hall on Tuesday, February 22. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

It has also confirmed that ultimate decision-making power in any negotiations would rest with the county council, rather than the councils operating below it - like Great Yarmouth's.

At the meeting, Mr Wainwright said he was "disappointed to learn that any devolution deal for Norfolk does not require the consent of districts or boroughs”.

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He added that GYBC had “a long history of delivering for residents of the borough” and that the authority should oppose “any proposals for a directly-elected mayor and a unitary council for Norfolk”. 

A unitary council for Norfolk would mean the scrapping of the county’s district, borough and city councils, and their powers absorbed by Norfolk County Council. 

The government has insisted there are no such plans in place. 

Tony Wright speaking at the unveiling of a blue plaque to mark the 30th anniversary of Crimestoppers

Labour councillor, and former MP, Tony Wright - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

The motion was seconded by Yarmouth’s former Labour MP, Tony Wright, who pointed to research from the Local Government Association which shows councils covering bigger populations tend to have lower election turnouts and lower trust in councillors. 

The council’s Conservative leader, Carl Smith, responded by saying there was no indication of any planned local government reorganisation in the white paper - and he would not support such a move in any case. 

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council

The council's Conservative leader, Carl Smith - Credit: Archant

“I think we should listen, see what they’ve got to offer [in terms of devolution], and then come back and debate it.

“This motion is far too premature, and I will not be supporting it at this present time.”