West Norfolk public say ‘no’ to elected mayor in our poll

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

Proposals for an elected mayor covering West Norfolk have been overwhelmingly rejected in a new poll.

The survey has been welcomed by opponents, who say it demonstrates the growing strength of public feeling against the idea.

But a businessman who has declared his intention to stand for the role insists radical reform is needed because of what he sees as the “failure” of existing structures.

The online poll was run via the Lynn News website and those of our seven sister titles across the three counties this week.

We asked: “Do you support the idea of an elected mayor for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire?”

Of around 200 people who voted, 81.4 per cent said no to the proposal, with only 18.6 per cent supporting the idea.

Last week, during a visit to the region, communities secretary Greg Clark said the mayor would have to be accepted by councils wanting to take part in the devolution project, in order to secure more than £1 billion of government money on offer with it.

But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, who opposes the mayoral plan, said he would be highlighting the poll result when he meets Mr Clark next week.

He claimed the poll reflected the views that had been expressed to him since the devolution plan was announced last month, adding: “People don’t have an affinity to East Anglia.”

Sir Henry said he supported the continuing involvement of West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney alongside representatives of county and district authorities from across the three counties.

But he said that, instead of a mayor, a regional committee made up of council leaders and representatives of the region’s local enterprise partnerships should be established instead.

However, speaking during his visit to Wisbech last week, Mr Clark said: “You can’t devolve that level of funding, and more to come, to a committee of shifting membership with all the uncertainty that entails.”

The poll result was released as the first mayoral candidate formally declared his intention to seek the role.

Ely-based social entrepreneur Dr Peter Dawe has announced he plans to stand as an independent candidate in the inaugural election, which is currently planned for May 2017.

He said he had been approached by a number of business leaders to stand and hoped his declaration would encourage government bodies at all levels to back the plan.

And he pledged to provide radical solutions to many of the major issues facing the region, including transport and housing, which he feels the existing structures cannot address.

Dr Dawe said: “Local government is in permanent crisis, the current system has failed.

“A new system has to be tried, getting it up and running rapidly with relatively few powers means government can respond to success or failure rapidly.”