Devolution fear raised over CITB move plan

GV CITB Bircham Norflk.
GV CITB Bircham Norflk.
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Rejecting devolution plans may now be haunting West Norfolk after the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced plans to leave the borough.

That is the fear of one high-profile activist today as the fallout from the board’s plan to move to a new headquarters, replacing its current Bircham Newton base, continues.

But the area’s MP says Budget measures aimed at increasing house building were an incentive to keep the board in its present home and save hundreds of jobs associated with it.

The CITB’s announcement of its intention to seek a new headquarters, likely to be in the Peterborough area, sent shockwaves through West Norfolk last week and provoked a furious reaction from politicians and union officials.

But unlike West Norfolk, which rejected devolution plans that would have seen a new combined Norfolk and Suffolk authority announced last year, the Peterborough district is part of a similar structure in Cambridgeshire.

The body, which is headed by a directly elected mayor, took up its powers in the spring and has already promoted a number of major transport and housing projects across its region.

North West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust says that, even though she didn’t support the devolution idea here, the effects of its demise could now be being felt, almost exactly a year on from the council votes that sealed its fate.

She said yesterday: “It’s clear it (the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough authority) has got clout that we currently don’t have.

“We’ve got nobody here shouting out for infrastructure.”

But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham insisted the issues weren’t related and claimed the plan to close the Bircham Newton site was the result of bad management within CITB.

And he believes that housing proposals outlined in Wednesday’s Budget could resolve the issue.

He said: “I particularly welcome the support announced in the Budget for the smaller house builders in places like West Norfolk who should benefit from the Government’s commitment to more capital funding, more loans and additional guarantees – in particular new money for the Home Builders Fund that should unlock some of the smaller sites.

“I also very much welcome the additional money announced for developing construction skills, and this is all the more reason for the CITB to keep their HQ at Bircham.”