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Devolution deal ‘not analysed properly’, says Swaffham councillor

Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426153558
Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426153558

Analysis of the proposed devolution settlement on offer to Norfolk and Suffolk has been inadequate, a county councillor has claimed.

Draft orders for the proposed new combined authority are expected to be published later today ahead of a series of key meetings that will determine its fate.

But Paul Smyth, who represents the Swaffham division on Norfolk County Council, criticised the information that had been put to members when he addressed a town council meeting on Wednesday.

He said he was uneasy about the information that has been presented to members so far, particularly on its potential costs.

He said: “The only case that has been put forward is how good it is.

“There hasn’t been enough analysis by any stretch of the imagination and that’s quite troubling.”

County councillors voted to allow their leader, Cliff Jordan, to continue negotiating the deal during a special meeting on Monday.

But they also ordered him to make their concerns about the package, which largely centre around a perceived lack of funding and ministers’ insistence on a directly-elected mayor to lead the new structure, clear to the government.

Mr Jordan is understood to have met communities secretary Sajid Javid for further talks on Wednesday.

But the minister has already reiterated that the funding on offer is conditional on the mayoral model being implemented - an approach Mr Smyth described as “carrot and stick.”

Last week, North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham claimed a revised deal, minus the mayor, could be achieved in the near future if the current settlement is turned down.

But a report published ahead of next Thursday’s West Norfolk Council meeting, where the borough is due to make its final decision on taking part, said it was likely councils would have to restart negotiations “from scratch” if that happened.

The county council will debate the issue on November 21.

Mr Smyth said the result was likely to depend on how opinions were split in the ruling Conservative group.

He said his own UKIP group were opposed to it, along with Labour and the Green Party, while the Liberal Democrats were split.

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