Norfolk devolution vote welcomed, but city may put it in doubt

editorial image

County backing for Norfolk and Suffolk’s devolution proposals has been hailed as a vital first step by the businessman who negotiated the new deal.

But opponents say the fate of the entire scheme could be thrown into doubt if Norwich City Council rejects it later today.

Norfolk County Council voted to back the agreement to set up a new combined authority for the two counties at a meeting yesterday.

The plan is now set to go out for a public consultation exercise, which begins next week.

And Andy Wood, who led negotiations with the government on behalf of the counties’ councils and local enterprise partnerships, welcomed the decision.

He said: “We must now await the outcome of meetings being held by other member authorities but this is a really important and positive first step.

“The proposed deal offers the area greater decision making powers and additional funding for among other things infrastructure and housing. Government has been clear that there must be local sign up to the proposed deal before it will sign off on it.”

Officials at six of the county’s district authorities - West Norfolk, Breckland, Broadland, North Norfolk, South Norfolk and Great Yarmouth - have recommended their members vote in similar fashion when they discuss the plans this week.

Breckland Council will examine the plans this afternoon and its leader, William Nunn, tweeted earlier that members would be given a free vote on the issue.

But members of Norwich City Council have been given the choice of backing the proposals or pulling out altogether when they meet this evening.

And senior figures in the Green Party, who make up the main opposition at City Hall, say they believe the plans will be turned down, potentially throwing the whole project into doubt.

Group leader Martin Schmierer, who stood for the Greens in the recent police and crime commissioner election, said: “The proposals are untested, the mayoral model is unwanted by the people of Norwich and the benefits for the city are too small to justify us supporting this devolution settlement and as a result we will continue to oppose these so-called devolution proposals.”