Senior Tory warning over plan for mayor

MP Sir Henry Bellingham outside the Heacham planning inquiry

MP Sir Henry Bellingham outside the Heacham planning inquiry - Credit: Archant

Plans for a directly-elected mayor for Norfolk and Suffolk could 'damage business interests', two high profile opponents of the move have said.

But supporters say the majority of the 150 local leaders who attended events last week supported the move.

North-West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham and West Norfolk councillor Lord Howard of Castle Rising have claimed the new elected mayor would lead to empire-building and rack up many millions of pounds in costs, as they urged businesses to reject the deal.

Great Yarmouth, Breckland, North Norfolk and Norwich district councils have already thrown out the plans, but the other authorities in the region have pushed on with a consultation over the plans.

In a letter to the EDP, Sir Henry and Lord Howard claim a local chief executive has told them they did not want to see an 'overpaid metro Mayor turning up at my premises in a chauffeur driven car giving me a lecture on how to run my business'. They cited concerns that it would create a fifth tier of local government, complicate local decision making, and pointed out that £25m a year sum from central government would have to be spread across 16 local authorities.

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But a joint statement from Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, Andy Wood, independent chair of the East Anglia leaders' group for Devolution, Jonathan Cage, president of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: said: 'The business events we held last week were attended by over 150 leaders from businesses, large and small, and universities and colleges representing many thousands of employees and students. The evidence we are gathering shows the majority support and are eager for the opportunity that devolution will bring, from greater control over local decision making to millions of pounds of additional investment for our local economy including; £25m infrastructure funding every year for 30 years – which immediately gives us the capacity to secure a hundred million more of potential investment through loan funding, £130m for new homes, including affordable housing, as well as local control over a £225m transport and a £20m skills budget. Businesses always talk about efficiency. Devolution means a more productive relationship with Government. This new way of representing the East's interests in Whitehall will give us a single point of contact with Government and a powerful voice in Whitehall and the Treasury, that's why we are all supportive of these proposals. We have one chance to secure this opportunity, miss it and the money will go elsewhere.'

'As discussions progress the Chambers of Commerce in Norfolk and Suffolk want to ensure the interests of the business community are front, back and middle in any future devolved decision-making and that is what we will continue to campaign for.'

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