Pressure grows on Osborne over devolution deal

The East Anglia flag flying at County Hall in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The East Anglia flag flying at County Hall in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The chancellor's budget woes deepened as pressure mounted on him to open the door to better his £30m-a-year offer and resume discussions about the need for an elected mayor for East Anglia.

In the wake of a Cambridgeshire County Council vote to send the deal back to the Treasury, supporters of devolution are understood to be urging the government to make it clear that it is a 'first step', softening the budget announcement that the government had 'agreed a mayoral devolution deal'.

West Norfolk's Nick Daunbey, who chaired a meeting of leaders in Ipswich yesterday, said they had agreed to engage with communities and other key groups to make sure they understood what was and wasn't part of the proposed deal and to hear their views.

But the deadline is tight, with the Department for Communities and Local Government giving councils until June to decide if they want to take part in the 'bottom-up' process. 'We are committed to the deal and will continue to work with all the councils in the area,' a spokesman said.

Great Yarmouth leader Graham Plant said the deal on the table was the start of a negotiation, and the case for more money for infrastructure in the three counties would be made.

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He said leaders were 'trying to understand' why they needed an elected mayor and questions about the cost of the role had not been answered,

'If you don't have facts and details, how can you come to a considered opinion? What savings can be made by doing things locally?

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'How do I sell it to the people of Great Yarmouth, that it is going to be better than what is there already?'

South Norfolk leader John Fuller acknowledged that many of the details are still to be worked out around the mayor, finance and the extent to which local people would have a greater degree of control within the three counties.

But he said: 'We must not lose sight of the fact the combined authority provides us with the best possible chance of matching infrastructure investment alongside houses that may come anyway.

'Success does not look like having the houses and no money for infrastructure.

'If the mayor is about to raise money that is otherwise not available to the area, money that can be spent in local areas, then this is worthy of taking this to the next level so that the government pays to maintain our quality of life, not local rate payers.

'The immediate work to be done is to articulate the benefits of this and translate the suggestions about future infrastructure into specific project which are relevant to the man in the street and show people the benefits,' he added.

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