Elected mayor for East Anglia back on the table
PUBLISHED: 06:00 20 February 2020
Devolution for East Anglia is back on the agenda more than three years after initial plans were shelved.
Back in 2016 Suffolk's councils backed the plans but Norfolk's were split. Other regions including Greater Manchester and the West Midlands did back the chance to have an elected mayor.
Having a mayor allows devolved regions to take more control over aspects like how central government funding is allocated. But beyond that the mayor's have regular meetings with the Treasury to outline what funding is required in their regions.
Now Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt has reignited the debate after tabling a written question to the Department of Housing and Local Government to ask what plans there were to elect a mayor to represent Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.
Mr Hunt said: "We have seen what important figures West Midlands mayor Andy Street and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham have become in talks with government and in the race for investment. This area needs someone of that stature to represent it in discussions with the government."
He had an open mind on whether the area covered by devolution should be Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire or just the two more easterly counties: "But I think it would have to be more than just Suffolk itself."
And his views were echoed by leader of Norfolk County Council Andrew Proctor who said "we would be fools not to discuss this again".
He added: "Last time we had a deal on the table that government agreed to which ensured a billion pounds of funding - that was huge for us. Sadly it didn't happen.
"But now we have a government that is determined to do things differently. The climate has changed. We should embrace that. We should go back into this with no red lines and our eyes wide open. We need a future where we can plot our own course and have more financial freedom."
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Nova Fairbank, head of policy for Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, added that the region "needs to be recognised as a dynamic and innovative community" and Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he could see the benefits of having an elected mayor representing the region in negotiations with the government but added: "I don't think we should have a model imposed by the government - it would have to be something that comes from local people."
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