West Norfolk Council’s concerns on devolution

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Concerns have been expressed over a bid to change the shape of local government in Norfolk.

Councils in Norfolk and Suffolk are holding talks about how they could benefit from central government proposals to devolve additional powers to local government.

A meeting between the 16 council leaders and the minister on the future of the proposal is due to be held on October 22.

But concerns about the bid were discussed at the West Norfolk Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Downham ward member Kathy Melish addressed the meeting on her concerns about the proposal.

She said: “We have been a very successful council in the past and we have done it our own way.

“How on earth are you going to manage to get a consensus if there are 16 of us?”

Cabinet member for ICT, leisure and public space, David Pope, raised concerns that the Local Enterprise Partnership will have a say on the proposals along with the 16 councils.

He said: “I am concerned about the LEP involvement because they are unelected.”

Mr Pope also clarified if there would be any impact on parish councils under the proposals, which there will not.

Elizabeth Nockolds told the meeting that she would like to see a push for more rural enterprise zones in the area.

Lord Howard, cabinet member for special projects, wanted assurance that the council and cabinet would authorise any devolution deal.

He also called for more information.

Lord Howard said: “I think we cannot make a proper decision until we see the details of how things are going to happen, rather than all these wonderful ideas of how they should happen.”

Deputy leader Alistair Beales, who was chairing the meeting, said more detail was needed on the proposal.

He said: “There is a huge opportunity for this council. We operate under the most centralised system possible, with little ability to progress.

“There is a lot of detail to come.

“I think it important for all councils to have their say on what could be very far-reaching proposals.”

Earlier this week Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to give councils the right to retain business rates. Under the new system local authorities will be able, from 2020, to keep 100 per cent of the cash they raise from local companies.