Treasury has ‘simple-minded alpha-male obsession with size’ when it comes to devolution, says ex-Norwich council leader

Baroness Patricia Hollis in the Council Chamber at City Hall after she was presented with the Freedo

Baroness Patricia Hollis in the Council Chamber at City Hall after she was presented with the Freedom of the City award. Photo: Denise Bradley Copy: Shaun Lowthorpe For: EDP/EN Archant Norfolk pics © 2007 (01603) 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2007

The former leader of Norwich City Council has accused the Treasury of a 'simple-minded alpha-male obsession with size' when it comes to pulling power away from Whitehall to the regions.

In the wake of a promise by the chancellor to give Manchester new devolution powers, Baroness Hollis has called for more powers for 'mid-tier cities' such as Norwich, which she said had equal contribution to the economy and more growth potential.

The government included plans for a new law to allow more power to be handed to the regions in the Queen's Speech, although it is unclear how this could play out in Norfolk and Suffolk. It comes after the controversial plans for unitary authorities in Norfolk were dropped at the beginning of the last parliament.

Baroness Hollis said Norwich had been denied unitary status by then communities secretary Eric Pickles, meaning the city had to service the county and lead the region, where one million people look to Norwich, on the not-very-large revenues of a rural district council.

Norfolk County Council said it had commissioned external consultants, alongside other Norfolk councils, to propose devolution options for Norfolk leaders to consider.

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Baroness Hollis warned the key cities cannot embrace the false god –the fetish – of size. Most cannot become combined authorities with adjacent rural districts without diluting their focus, flexibility, entrepreneurship, distinctiveness and identity.

'The cities face issues of density; rural areas, issues of sparsity. We can offer services and enter specific partnerships with our neighbours, which is good, but we cannot be amalgamated and homogenised into a sort of anywhere, thinned-out, national suburbia.

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'If we lose our sense of place or our notion of the community to which we belong, we are all losers and no longer have local government.'

Should local government in Norfolk be given more power? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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