Norwich City Council unanimously rejects East Anglian devolution deal

Leader of Breckland Council William Nunn. Picture: Ian Burt

Leader of Breckland Council William Nunn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A question mark hangs over the future of the East Anglian devolution deal after it was rejected by two councils.

Norwich City Council voted unanimously against continuing the process, just hours after Breckland Council did the same.

Meanwhile, Broadland District Council endorsed the start of a public consultation on the deal, voting 30 to three in favour.

The devolution deal would see the creation of a Norfolk and Suffolk combined authority, as well as an elected mayor.

Yesterday Norfolk County Council voted in favour of the proposed deal. But Norwich city councillors had numerous concerns about it.

Leader Alan Waters described the process as a 'rushed exercise', adding that it was taking place in a very 'turbulent' time nationally.

He said: 'Frankly we cannot be sure that with an election of a new government and a new prime minister in a matter of weeks, whether this process will actually be completed.'

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Meanwhile, Labour councillor Roger Ryan claimed an elected mayor would be able to overturn the council's decisions.

He said: 'An elected mayor will take power away from the people of Norwich, make no mistake about it.'

Green Party group leader Martin Schmierer, a long-standing opponent of the deal, said: 'This deal is effectively dead. Given that Norwich and Breckland councils have both rejected this so called 'devolution' deal, it is clear that this ill-thought out and hastily drawn up set of proposals is no longer viable.

'There is no public appetite for an elected mayor. As the council debate showed, councillors have looked carefully at the detail of the proposal and have no confidence that it would benefit the people of Norwich or the wider region.

'The current paralysis at the heart of the Conservative Party means that there is no one to negotiate with there. Indeed, even if that were possible, the scale and the nature of the changes needed to make it palatable to the Green Party would be so huge that as far as we're concerned, it would make more sense to tear up the document and start afresh.'

The government is offering an extra £25m over the next 30 years (£750m in total) to spend on new roads, transport links, and another £100m over the next five years to help build affordable homes, plus an additional £30m over the same period specifically for Norwich and Ipswich.

In return a combined authority would be created, with members appointed and led by a publicly elected mayor.

Broadland District Council voted in favour of endorsing the start of a public consultation on the deal this evening.

Leader Andrew Proctor said: 'We want to be leading the change in the way central and local government work together, using collective resources and money, to deliver that change.'

'Broadland has ambitious growth plans that must have supporting infrastructure which we believe devolution can help us to deliver quicker and better.

'A transfer of power and money from central government to local administration will also allow us to meet the other challenges facing local government in the future.'

Speaking about the Breckland vote, William Nunn, leader of the council, said: 'Whilst Breckland is keen to foster partnership working, any devolution to a combined authority has to be right for the residents and businesses of our district.

'The matter has been debated and discussed at length with members over the last few months. Whilst devolution clearly presents opportunities to steer major decisions at a more local level, members are not yet convinced of the benefits of the deal in its current form and the requirement for a mayor.

'We will continue to take an active role in future discussions with the other councils. I am hopeful that in the future we can craft a deal that is right for Breckland and enables us to lead and influence the development of our district, county and region in a controlled and fair way.'

Cambridgeshire County Council has given its support to its version of the deal, which would see the creation of a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority.

The council voted 39 for 26 in favour.