West Norfolk Council leader Terry Parish defends criticism of devolution deal
West Norfolk Council’s leader made no apologies for trying to push for a better devolution deal when faced with criticism from his Tory counterpart.
At Thursday’s full borough council meeting, the administration’s leader Cllr Terry Parish tabled a motion to continue negotiating to secure “the best deal we can” when it comes to devolution in the county.
At the start of the year, Norfolk County Council announced a multi-million pound deal which will see it handed more powers from the Government. The plans could involve residents voting for a democratically elected leader, and will supposedly hand more powers to local councils.
Last month, Cllr Parish called for these plans to be delayed until our area is offered more money.
On Thursday, Cllr Stuart Dark – West Norfolk’s Conservative leader – said he would support the recommendation from cabinet to pursue a better deal. However, he said he could not back Cllr Parish himself.
He accused him of “getting right in the way of a deal between county and Government” without any mandate from the borough council.
“Leader, can you stop getting in the way of this? Thank you,” Cllr Dark said.
Cllr Parish told the meeting the purpose of his complaints was to try and improve the deal before it is ratified.
On joining fellow Norfolk district leaders in doing so, he said: “It is called embracing your fellows, which I don’t do very well, and I tried very hard to embrace my fellows on that particular occasion.”
A vote between councillors saw them approve the motion to continue pushing for a better deal.
Cllr Charles Joyce, West Norfolk’s Labour leader, agreed that the borough council should be aiming for that – but stressed we should try not to “upset too many people who we will need to have onside at a later date”.
He said: “I look at the county deal a bit like little Oliver. Please, Mr, can I have some more?”
“Let’s just hope we get more than our share.”
Cllr Alex Kemp said she thinks the deal should result in more powers being given to the borough council rather than the county council.
The county council’s cabinet will consider options for the possible devolution of powers and funding to Norfolk when it meets on December 4.
Its four options will include:
- Proceeding with the current, in principle deal, which would see voting for a directly elected leader in May 2024 – a year ahead of the county council elections.
- Proceeding with the current, in principle deal, but with voting taking place in May 2025, alongside the county council elections, after the Government agreed to allow this option to be considered.
- Going back to Government and negotiating a level two deal, which would mean Norfolk wouldn’t receive the £20million per year investment fund and other funding and powers over transport and brownfield sites – but would have adult education funding devolved to the county
- Deciding not to proceed with a devolution deal.