West Norfolk would benefit from moves to create a new ‘Eastern motor’ incorporating Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, the borough council’s leader has claimed.
As talks over the future shape of local government continue, communities secretary Greg Clark this week suggested the three counties should look at how they can work together to benefit from the government’s devolution plans.
And West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney believes the idea could have big benefits for this area.
He said today: “We have particularly strong links in that direction. We can see great advantages in having a rather larger solution and that’s something we’re actively working on.”
For several months, council chiefs in Norfolk and Suffolk have been discussing ways in which the two counties could benefit from the government’s proposals to devolve more powers to local authorities.
And Mr Daubney said he hoped a new structure would be in place ahead of the next scheduled county council elections in 2017.
But, following Mr Clark’s latest comments, some critics have accused the government of changing its position on the type of reforms it wants to introduce.
One insider has suggested to the Lynn News that West Norfolk Council could be forced into collaborating across the county boundary with the Fenland district and Peterborough city councils
But Mr Daubney said: “There is no way we will be forced into anything.
“We just wouldn’t do it unless it was good for West Norfolk and good for the region.”
And, in a Commons debate on the bill which will enable devolution settlements to come into force on Monday, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb called for a commitment from ministers that agreement for the implementation of reforms would still be sought.
He said: “We should only get to the point of imposing this if all else fails.
“Will the Government issue guidance to ensure that the emphasis is on local agreement?
Mr Clark maintained the Government wanted proposals developed from the bottom up, rather than top down.
He said: “Previous local government bills have attempted, with unhappy consequences, to impose a government view of how local government should be organised on reluctant local authorities. This bill does not do that.
“We are completely committed to inviting every part of the country to put forward and negotiate a deal that is right for them.”