Norfolk and Suffolk councils to decide on Devolution this month

Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid on a recent visit to East Anglia
Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid on a recent visit to East Anglia
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Over the next two weeks 12 councils across Norfolk and Suffolk and the New Anglia LEP will be asked to formally agree to become part of a Mayoral Combined authority for the two counties.

Councils and the LEP will be asked to agree to a draft Order for approval by Parliament which covers the powers that Government is proposing to transfer to a Norfolk/Suffolk Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) and how it would take its decisions. Leaders have been clear that the key decisions such as on how to spend the £750m investment fund and £130m housing fund and requests for additional powers from government must be supported by all the members of MCA.

The draft order was produced after the Secretary of State (SoS) for Communities and Local Government had considered a summary of the more than 10,000 responses to the consultation carried out during July and August. The SoS recognised the local support for Devolution and was satisfied that creating a Mayoral Combined Authority for Norfolk and Suffolk would improve outcomes for local communities.

The majority of consultation responses, 6080, were received via a telephone survey carried out by Ipsos-Mori. The survey gained views from a cross section of people, reflecting the population of the two counties and highlighted strong support for more decisions to be taken locally across a range of issues. There was also majority support for setting up a MCA.

The same survey was also available via the Devolution and council websites with around 2900 people responding. Whilst there was less support for a MCA via this channel there was majority support for more decisions to be taken locally.

250 businesses of various sizes across the two counties were also surveyed by Mori and also showed clear support for more decisions to be taken locally by a MCA.

Andy Wood, Independent Chair of the Leaders Group said: “Communities have told us that they want more decisions that affect them taken locally rather than by central government. Devolution would deliver exactly that - improving people’s lives and the places in which they live. The Secretary of State has confirmed the Government’s commitment to Devolution for Norfolk and Suffolk – locally, we must now seize this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“There have been some concerns about those areas of Norfolk who would currently not be covered by the Combined Authority. The Secretary of State has been clear that once the Combined Authority has been formally established the four areas would be very welcome to apply to join, should they so wish.

“It is also important to be clear that only if all the councils agree the draft order will devolution for the two counties proceed. In early September a strong message was sent to the North East where some councils voted against their proposed Devolution deal, which saw Government promptly withdraw the deal. The Secretary of State has clearly stated that this is one of the most ambitious devolution deals in the country. He has been equally as clear that if we don’t agree the deal the funding on offer will be spent elsewhere in the country, where Devolution plans are agreed. We must not allow more than £1bn of funding slip through our fingers.”

Key elements of the Norfolk/Suffolk deal are:

* £25m funding each year for the next 30 years (£750m) to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and jobs (this would increase the local economy to £43bn and create 95,000 jobs by 2026)

* £130m investment over five years to support the building of new homes across Norfolk and Suffolk

* Over the lifetime of the deal around 200,000 homes could be delivered

* Control of a £225m transport budget for the next four years

* Control of an existing c£20m annual adult skills fund to ensure the training offer matches the needs of local businesses and the local labour market

* Control of an existing £2m annual Apprenticeship Grant for employers

If all councils and the LEP approve the draft order a Combined Authority would be established from 1 March 2017 with Mayoral elections taking place on 4 May 2017.

Dates of meetings:

* Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk - 17 November

* Broadland District Council - 17 November

* South Norfolk District Council – 17 November

* Norfolk County Council – 21 November

* Mid Suffolk District Council – 21 November

* St Edmundsbury Borough Council – 21 November

* Suffolk Coastal District Council – 21 November

* Babergh District Council – 22 November

* Forest Heath District Council – 22 November

* New Anglia LEP – 23 November

* Suffolk County Council – 23 November

* Ipswich Borough Council – 23 November

* Waveney District Council – 23 November