Norfolk and Suffolk devolution talks described as ‘worst council meeting ever’

The devolution debate at Norfolk County Council takes its toll on some councillors. Pic: Mustard.

The devolution debate at Norfolk County Council takes its toll on some councillors. Pic: Mustard. - Credit: Archant

Norfolk county councillors have agreed its leader can continue to represent them in talks over a devolution deal - but to make clear the authority has 'substantial reservations' about an elected mayor.

After two-and-half hours, the council agreed Conservative leader Cliff Jordan should keep attending, ahead of a final decision on devolution on November 21.

But the initial recommendation - seeking approval for Mr Jordan to attend meetings - was amended after councillors expressed concern over the government's insistence any deal must have an elected mayor.

At one point, Labour leader George Nobbs described proceedings as going down in history as 'the worst council meeting ever' at County Hall, with confusion over what councillors were voting on,

Eventually, councillors voted, by 53 votes to four against, with three abstentions, that Mr Jordan should carry on going to the Norfolk and Suffolk leaders' meetings over the deal.

Former chancellor George Osborne announced in this year's budget that an Eastern Powerhouse would be created, with a draft devolution deal on the table for three counties - Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

If agreed, the deal would see the Treasury hand over £30m a year for the next 30 years, along with £175m of housing money, with a new combined authority, chaired by a mayor.

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They would get to draw up spending plans for transport, strategic planning, and major government infrastructure projects.

Subsequently, the deal has been split, with one now on the table covering Norfolk and Suffolk and another covering Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

But the government's insistence that there must be an elected mayor has been criticised. It was part of the reason why Norwich City Council, Breckland District Council, North Norfolk District Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council decided they did not want to be part of the deal.

That means people living in those areas will not be able to vote for a mayor, if the deal goes through. In the meantime, the other councils will, over the next month, vote on whether they want to be part of the deal.

And Norfolk County Council's vote, due on November 21, is likely to be make or break as to whether the deal happens.

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