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Blueprint for East Anglia elected mayor is not up for discussion, minister tells MPs

PUBLISHED: 19:05 27 April 2016 | UPDATED: 19:05 27 April 2016

Tory MP James Wharton speaking in the House of Commons about the European Union (Referendum) Bill. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 5, 2013. Bringing forward the Private Member's Bill, the backbench MP for Stockton South, said:

Tory MP James Wharton speaking in the House of Commons about the European Union (Referendum) Bill. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 5, 2013. Bringing forward the Private Member's Bill, the backbench MP for Stockton South, said: "It is an honour for me to put forward a Bill that at its heart, the heart of our democracy - that powers should reside with the people". See PA story POLITICS EU. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

Discussions with the government about a deal for an elected mayor for East Anglia will not be re-opened, a minister has told MPs.

James Wharton - a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government - said he had no intention of changing the geography of the agreement signed ahead of the budget.

He was responding to MPs from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire who raised concerns about the plans to give an elected mayor powers over transport and housing, along with a £30m a year budget.

The Westminster Hall event was called by Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson who raised a raft of concerns, including about adding a fifth tier of government.

He has also called for the boundaries of the deal to be changed to return to a Cambridge and Peterborough deal which is separate to Norfolk and Suffolk. Cambridgeshire County Council leader Steve Count has also raised this prospect.

Mr Jackson accused the government of announcing the deal with very little consultation, telling the minister that in the course of the budget the government had disregarded other good work in devolving power in Manchester and Peterborough.

But Mr Wharton struck an uncompromising tone, telling MPs: “The government has made a deal. Signataries were added to that document.” Adding: “We have no expectation or indeed plan to reopen discussion and start again.”

He said there were other areas which wanted to talk about devolution or to secure deals of their own.

“It is very positive that East Anglia is so far ahead in forging ahead with this policy agenda, but we must recognise that if areas want to come back on deals that have already been agreed and reinvent them before they have been enacted then we would have to look at the allocation of time and resources to other areas that have not yet reached agreement.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said there were still many unanswered questions. “There is a need for a pause to work with local people to produce a long term strategic plan.”

Bury St Edmunds Jo Churchill said devolution in principle was a prize and they should not lose focus of the prize.

What do you think about the plans? Email edpletters@archant.co.uk

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