Norfolk County Council ‘sleepwalking to abolition’ over devolution, member claims

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A Norfolk county councillor has claimed the authority is heading to abolition by continuing to participate in devolution discussions.

Councillors voted 70 to seven in favour of remain part of the discussions over plans to establish a new combined authority for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire at a meeting in Norwich on Monday.

But members on all sides voiced concerns about the proposals, particularly the imposition of a directly elected mayor.

And independent Alexandra Kemp, who was one of the seven councillors to vote against the authority’s continuing participation in the talks, fears its very future is at stake.

She said: “It’s very sad to see the county council sleepwalking towards its own abolition.”

Following the meeting, it was reported that Suffolk MP and Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock had been appointed to take charge of the project.

But Toby Coke, leader of the Norfolk County Council UKIP group and chairman of its environment, development and transport committee, described the move as “another nail in the coffin” for the project.

Speaking at a parish council meeting in North Runcton, near King’s Lynn, last night, he said: “I think that will be the kiss of death for it.”

And, despite the council voting to remain in the discussions, Mr Coke predicted members would eventually decide to pull out.

He told the meeting a further debate will be scheduled for June when the final make-up of the deal is expected to have been completed.

And a third meeting could then take place in October, following a period of public consultation.

But he added: “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to come to very much. It’s very unlikely to get anywhere.”