Devolution bid ‘not affected by Cambridgeshire snub’, says West Norfolk chief

Incinerator costings press conference held by Henry Bellingham MP, Liz Truss MP and Nick Daubney the Leader of the Council. ENGANL00120140131161835
Incinerator costings press conference held by Henry Bellingham MP, Liz Truss MP and Nick Daubney the Leader of the Council. ENGANL00120140131161835
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Work will continue on devolution plans for Norfolk and Suffolk despite politicians in Cambridgeshire rejecting calls to join forces with them, officials have insisted.

Although further talks will take place on areas of potential co-operation, representatives of the Cambridgeshire authorities have indicated they do not want to be involved in a joint bid for more powers.

But, though he suggested the three-county approach had greater potential, West Norfolk Council Nick Daubney said the Norfolk-Suffolk scheme would continue.

He said: “We will carry on building as strong a case as we can.”

Political leaders in Norfolk and Suffolk have been discussing how the two counties can benefit from the government’s plans to give more powers to local authorities for several months.

But, last month, communities secretary Greg Clark, the minister in charge of pushing through the government’s devolution agenda, suggested the counties could combine with Cambridgeshire to form an “eastern motor”, similar to the much discussed northern powerhouse.

Mr Daubney also backed the idea, arguing such a solution offered the potential of significant benefits for West Norfolk.

He said a deal between the counties could create an area as strong as the city regions of Manchester and Sheffield, which already have devolution deals in place.

But he added: “I gather that’s not the thinking of the Cambridgeshire authorities. There’s still discussions to be had.”

Other Norfolk leaders have indicated they never believed a deal with Cambridgeshire was a realistic prospect and claimed the approach was only made to prove that.

A survey published by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership last month revealed that, while a majority of business people in Norfolk and Suffolk supported devolution, almost half felt it should be between the two counties alone, rather than involving either Cambridgeshire or Essex.

But discussions are set to continue across the Cambridgeshire border on areas where the counties can work together, such as transport.

And Mr Daubney maintained the joint Norfolk-Suffolk bid was not affected by Cambridgeshire’s position.

He said: “We have a very viable plan. We have got a well-run, forward-thinking Local Enterprise Partnership and we’ll be making a very good case to the government.”