Norfolk-Suffolk devolution referendum demand as only 2,000 take part in consultation so far

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It’s an issue that has been taxing politicians for months, but barely one in 800 people has so far commented on devolution proposals for Norfolk and Suffolk.

Residents have just over two weeks left to have their say on plans to set up a new combined authority before a final decision is made in the autumn.

But, while dozens of companies have signalled their support for the idea, it appears the vast majority of residents have yet to give their views.

Norfolk County Council officials this week revealed that around 2,000 people across the two counties had so far had their say on the proposals. A spokesman said more responses were coming in “every day.”

But, although no details of the breakdown of responses has been released, that figure represents just 0.12 per cent of the counties’ total population, which the most recent estimates suggested was around 1.62 million.

It also suggests that only one out of approximately 808 residents has so far had their say.

Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp, who opposes the deal, said the deal did nothing to address the county’s biggest problem, the growing demand for adult social care.

She said: “Everyone who speaks to me about Devolution thinks that a Norfolk-Suffolk superstructure is a clear waste of time and money with no benefit to Norfolk.

“Sadly, people also say they think putting in an objection is a waste of time, as they think it is all a done deal, whatever the public think. There should be a referendum.”

But, when he proposed putting the deal out to consultation in June, county council leader Cliff Jordan said he would oppose the deal if the public did so.

One group that has signalled its support for devolution is the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which says it now has the backing of around 100 more companies following a series of meetings across the region last week.

The firms signed a letter by the LEP and the counties’ Chambers of Commerce backing the idea.

And officials say they plan to attract more support from the business community before consultations end on August 23.

LEP chairman Mark Pendlington said: “The business community recognises the massive opportunity we have been handed to bring even greater prosperity, more funding and release even more potential.”

To have your say on devolution, visit www.eastangliadevo.co.uk.