Waveney votes to continue talks for a Suffolk-only devolution deal
PUBLISHED: 12:08 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:08 24 November 2016
Leaders at a district council are to seek an urgent meeting with the government to see if they can keep the prospect of a Suffolk-only devolution deal alive.
The county was dealt a blow when local authorities in neighbouring Norfolk voted against a two-county deal, meaning the government pulled the plug on a project which would’ve potentially brought millions of pounds of investment to the area.
Yet despite admitting a devolution deal would now need to be renegotiated for just one county, Waveney District Council leader Colin Law said the goal is to “aim high” – and get a new deal worth more than half the previous Norfolk and Suffolk arrangement.
At an extraordinary full council meeting last night, he implored fellow members to agree to leaders continuing talks with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
“This is too good an opportunity for Suffolk to miss,” he told them.
“This is all about growth in infrastructure and housing.
“Let’s get this over the line so we can start to see the benefits for Suffolk.”
He stressed the vote was not for a firm commitment but simply for the “authority to go away and explore the possibilities of a deal”.
The vote was almost unanimous, with only Waveney District Council chairman Mark Bee abstaining.
It means every Suffolk council has now agreed to continue the talks, with the county council also agreeing to move ahead with 57 votes in favour.
The meeting also authorised the leader and chief executive at Waveney to seek an urgent meeting with the secretary of state to “discuss the government’s intentions in relation to devolution”.
Adnams chief executive Andy Wood – previously independent chairman of the East Anglian Devolution Leaders Group – will stay on as chairman of the leaders group for a Suffolk-only bid, which Mr Law believes shows the support of the business sector.
Yet concerns about proposals for a mayor remain, with Mr Law saying the government would insist on having a leader who could be held accountable for how the money from devolution is used.
He assured them that would be a “light touch” role with limited powers, acting more as a chairman of a board of district council leaders who would not be able to veto their collective decisions.
Ian Graham, speaking on behalf of the opposition Labour group, said: “We’d like to support everything you’re trying to do. We believe this is a good idea.”
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