Suffolk and Norfolk in talks over Combined Authority

Suffolk County Council

Suffolk County Council

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Suffolk and Norfolk could submit a joint ‘bid’ for devolution after it emerged a combined approach would be looked at more favourably by Central Government.

Both authorities have made separate ‘bids’ in the hope of gaining control locally for areas such as economic development, housing, transport, planning and policing.

But council leaders have been advised their individual ‘bids’ are not seen as a ‘viable option’ and they are being ‘strongly encouraged’ to consider a joint Suffolk, Norfolk and LEP ‘bid’.

In an email circulated earlier this month, Mark Pendlington, chairman of the New Anglia LEP, said there was ‘political energy and momentum’ behind Norfolk/Suffolk being the first non-metro devolution deal.

But he warned ‘time is tight’ as it would need to be announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement on November 25.

Yesterday, council partners met to discuss the ambitious proposal and agree a way forward.

Mr Pendlington said: “It was a constructive meeting with all the key people attending.

“Together, we will be setting out a clear work plan of the main issues we want to present to Government. We are now going to get on with the detailed work and the hard graft required to put the best possible case to Government.

“We are confident of a compelling outcome and will be consulting with partners and sharing the details of our plan in the forthcoming weeks.”

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “The DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) have made it clear they’re more enthusiastic about a joint ‘bid’ by the two councils. There’s a huge amount to gain from the councils in the region working together but there’s a huge amount still to do.”

Jennie Jenkins, Chairman of the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ group, said: “Devolution is a once-in-a-generation’s opportunity to bring power closer to our communities. We successfully submitted a Suffolk devolution ‘bid’ to Government at the beginning of September.

“All of Suffolk’s councils are now in active discussions with ministers, civil servants, the New Anglia LEP and councils in Norfolk to build around this ‘bid’.

“The aim is to develop one which is even broader in scope and depth in terms of the powers and responsibilities we would like from Government and what we hope to achieve for our communities by being granted them.

“The main elements of these discussions are about having more control over local economic growth and improving how councils, the police and health bodies work together.

“In the case of growth, we are talking about powers around transport links, infrastructure projects and business support being devolved to a Combined Authority across Suffolk and Norfolk comprising representatives from the participating councils and other partners.

“This does not mean the scrapping or merging of the two county, or any other, councils. Wider public sector reform would focus on education, health, care and safety and be devolved on an individual county basis.”

“We have got a few more weeks to fine-tune this joint ‘bid’ before meeting the Government in late October to ensure that it is fit for purpose,” she added.

Norfolk County Council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to meet on Monday when it will be asked to agree the principle of a Norfolk and Suffolk Combined Authority.