More than half of Norfolk voters will not have a say in mayoral election
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Thousands of people in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Breckland and North Norfolk will not be able to vote for the elected mayor who would control multi-million pound local transport budgets and have power over where homes are built, it has been confirmed.
Even though people in those four Norfolk areas have been taking part in a consultation over whether they back a devolution deal for Norfolk and Suffolk, it has not been made clear to them that they would have no vote when it comes to selecting a mayor, because their district councils had opted out of the scheme. It means more than 300,000 people would not be able to vote.
And, if the government insists the devolution deal must have an elected mayor, the fact Suffolk has so many more authorities which are likely to back the deal casts serious doubts on whether the mayor could ever come from Norfolk.
Cliff Jordan, the Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council, described the situation as a 'pig's ear', and said the four councils had disenfranchised their residents.
He, and the leaders of the four other parties on the county council, will not be able to vote in the mayoral election because they all live in areas that rejected the deal.
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He said: 'It's not fair on Norfolk. That's why I'm saying those four councils disenfranchised us. If they can't see how badly they behaved, what can I do about it? The consequences of their behaviour are awful.'
He said he would wait to see the results of the public consultation before deciding whether to recommend the county council proceed with the deal when it comes back for approval in October.
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Mark Pendlington from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said he had seen nothing to suggest Norfolk would be disadvantaged by the process.
He added: 'There's great support all around the table about Norfolk and Suffolk being a united area, rather than being two counties sparring against each other. Norfolk and Suffolk are two equal counties. I hope Norfolk does not feel it's being short changed at all.'
George Nobbs, who was leader of Norfolk County Council when the devolution plans first emerged, and leads the Labour group on the council, said: 'I think Mark is being a little bit optimistic about human nature, if he thinks Suffolk will not have a political and electoral advantage in any contest. Any candidate coming from Norfolk faces a handicap. It's just the way it is.'
He added: 'It's a hideous mess. It's really misconceived from start to finish.'
Consultation over the transfer of powers from Whitehall to local councils, which supporters say would give the region £1.3bn to invest in infrastructure, economic growth and jobs and millions more for homes, closes tomorrow.
Four councils in Norfolk – Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Breckland and North Norfolk – voted not to back the deal, leaving Broadland, West Norfolk, South Norfolk and Norfolk County Council within the process.
But in Suffolk, all seven districts, plus Suffolk County Council, have backed it.
The councils will make a final decision on whether to support the deal in October, with elections due in May pending orders being laid in Parliament.
And, if the councils which have stepped back from the deal do change their minds and decide they want in, the consultation process would have to be run again and another Parliamentary order would be needed.
The people living in the area of the council which wants to join would also have to wait for the next set of mayoral elections before they could vote, which will happen every four years.
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