People across Norfolk and Suffolk are being asked for their views on a proposed devolution deal and associated governance arrangements for the two counties.
Devolution is about transferring certain decision-making powers and funding down from Central Government to a local area. It means that decisions are taken close to where they have an effect.
The majority of councils across Norfolk and all in Suffolk, along with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership supported the deal and agreed to ask the public for their views.
Consultation will run until 23 August.
Key elements of proposed Norfolk/Suffolk deal are:
* £25m funding each year for the next 30 years (£750m) to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and jobs (this will increase the local economy to £43bn and create 95,000 jobs by 2026)
* £130m investment over five years to support the building of new homes across Norfolk and Suffolk
* Over the lifetime of the deal around 200,000 homes could be delivered
* Control of a £225m transport budget for the next four years
* Control of an existing c£20m annual adult skills fund to ensure the training offer matches the needs of local businesses and the local labour market
* Control of an existing c£2m annual Apprenticeship Grant for employers
The deal would have a Combined Authority and a Directly Elected Mayor. The Combined Authority would decide the most effective and efficient level to deliver services to ensure the best possible outcomes for communities.
About the Combined Authority (CA)
* The CA would be made up of an elected member from all constituent councils across Norfolk and Suffolk
* The CA would not replace any existing council
* Councils would continue as they currently do, to provide services for their areas
About the Mayor
* The Mayor would be elected by residents in the council areas that have voted to approve devolution
* The Mayor would not be able to make decisions alone and would require the support of a certain number of members on the CA to progress their proposals
* Existing Mayors across Norfolk and Suffolk would not be affected
* Locally, the Mayor would be held to account by voters (elections every four years)
* There would also be an Audit Committee and an Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review spending and decision making respectively
As part of the consultation, people are being asked for their views on more decisions being taken locally, rather than at central government. They will be asked if they support the creation of a combined authority chaired by a Mayor for the two counties, how decisions should be taken and how a combined authority and Mayor should be held to account for the decisions they take.
People can have their say by visiting www.eastangliadevo.co.uk and completing the online survey or the hard copy version. The website also includes further information about the proposed deal and the role of the proposed Combined Authority and Mayor.
In addition, Ipsos-Mori will also be carrying out more than 3000 phone surveys across the two counties to ensure decision makers have a representative sample of views.
Cllr Jennie Jenkins, Chair of Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders Group said: “The deal on the table offers Suffolk and Norfolk much needed additional funding and the necessary decision making powers to be able to target that funding to areas and projects which as local councillors we know will have the greatest impact for our communities.
“This would be the start of a completely different relationship with Government. Setting up a Combined Authority and agreeing to a Mayor would mean we could go back to Government again and again asking for more funding and powers in the future.
“Consultation is ongoing until 23 August and people should have their say so when councils and the LEP debate the matter again in October their views inform that debate.”
Andy Wood, Independent Chair of the East Anglia Leaders Group said: “With majority support across Norfolk and Suffolk and complete support across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough it is right that communities now have the opportunity to have their say on devolution proposals for East Anglia.
“Norfolk and Suffolk has one of the best potential settlements in the country, offering £130m over five years for housing and £25m a year (for 30 years) to increase jobs, provide better infrastructure and drive growth in local businesses and the economy.
“I would encourage communities to give their views in the consultation so councils and the Secretary of State can take an informed view later in the year.”
Views from public consultation will be reported to the Secretary of State for him to consider ahead of any decision to create a combined authority or arrangements are made for mayoral elections, which would take place in May 2017.
Following publication of the original deal in March 2016, negotiations with Government have seen the funding on offer increase for both housing and infrastructure.
Discussions also led to a proposal to have two deals (Norfolk/Suffolk and Cambridgeshire/Peterborough), which council leaders and LEPs believe is the best way to get the most benefit for the people, places and businesses across East Anglia. However, there would be joint working across East Anglia to improve transport and other infrastructure.