Better devolution ‘can be won’ claims King’s Lynn MP

Election Count at Lynnsport King's Lynn'Henry Bellingham ANL-150805-111717009
Election Count at Lynnsport King's Lynn'Henry Bellingham ANL-150805-111717009

A better devolution deal can be secured for Norfolk if politicians are prepared to wait and reject the current proposals, Lynn’s MP has claimed.

But West Norfolk Council’s most senior officer has urged councillors to back the deal, insisting it’s the best settlement the region is likely to get.

County and district authorities are due to make final decisions on whether to sign up to a new mayor-led combined authority for Norfolk and Suffolk over the next few weeks.

Following a meeting with council leaders last week, communities secretary Sajid Javid said the proposal, which offers £130 million of investment over the next five years for housing, plus a £25 million annual fund for 30 years, was one of the most generous in the country.

But critics say the money being offered is insufficient and the mayor is not necessary.

And North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham yesterday insisted the chance was there to secure further concessions.

He said: “What Sajid Javid has made clear to me is this is the first wave of deals. We’ll be able to come back in a year or so’s time.”

He claimed the current deal would be “disastrous” for West Norfolk and suggested recent votes against mayor-led devolution deals, such as that of Lincolnshire County Council, could force the government to drop its insistence on them.

But West Norfolk Council chief executive Ray Harding insisted it would be “unwise” to turn the deal down now.

He said: “We agree that the process has been far from ideal, but it is the best offer we are going to get.

“It will open doors in the future to more deals, which means more money and power locally to do what helps our two counties.

“Now is not the time to hang on to out-dated models of government. Now is the time to take hold of this opportunity and make it work for us.”

Officials will provide a verbal briefing on the proposals at the start of Monday’s special Norfolk County Council meeting, before councillors debate and vote on them.

But Clenchwarton and Lynn south representative Alexandra Kemp says that is insufficient and insisted a written report should be provided by the end of today.

She said: “If full details are not provided in writing to all members, the only responsible course of action is for members to withhold permission to continue negotiating.”