West Norfolk councillors have emphatically rejected devolution proposals at a meeting in King’s Lynn tonight.
Members voted 44 to 14 not to take part in the proposed combined authority for Norfolk and Suffolk, despite the authority’s leadership calling for them to back it.
Although both the Broadland and South Norfolk councils, which were the two other Norfolk districts to continue in the scheme, have both overwhelmingly voted for the plan during their own meetings this evening, it is thought likely that the deal will now be withdrawn by the government.
However, a Norfolk County Council spokesman has said he expects its meeting on the subject to go ahead on Monday as scheduled.
The West Norfolk result has sparked an angry reaction on social media from some supporters of the deal.
South Norfolk councillor Barry Stone tweeted: “Shame on Kings Lynn and West Norfolk for putting Norfolk back in the dark ages.”
But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, a long-standing critic of the deal, called the vote “an outstanding victory” and urged all sides of the debate to come together to secure a better deal.
Speaking a short time ago, he claimed that communities secretary Sajid Javid had told him last night that a new deal could be negotiated in 2017 if this one falls.
He said: “We now have an opportunity to do a deal that is in Norfolk’s interests.
“It has been in intensive care for some time. This is now going to kill it off and that’s very good news for Norfolk.”
Earlier, during the West Norfolk meeting, leader Brian Long said he could not guarantee another devolution deal would be made available if the current one was voted down.
And his predecessor, Nick Daubney passionately argued for its adoption, saying he was “fed up with being bottom of the pile.”
He said: “Norfolk versus Suffolk, no. Norfolk instead of Whitehall, yes. We deserve better, so let’s go and get it.”
But Lord Howard claimed the borough authority would soon be no more than a “flash parish council” if it voted for the proposal.
He said: “I urge you don’t give away your borough.”
Independent Richard Bird also criticised what he called the “seven months of propaganda” that had been aimed at councillors to persuade them to accept the deal.
He said: “Of course we’d like devolution, but not at any price.”
A number of councillors stated that they disagreed with the deal due to the idea of a directly-elected mayor.
John Collop said: “An elected mayor will have a lot of power. Everybody who has spoken to me has the elected mayor problem, and I have exactly the same problem.”
Others took issue with another layer of government.
Andrew Morrison said: “Our duty to our voters is to think about the long term future rather than the short term gain. This is change for the sake of change, or perhaps change for the sake of central government.”