Devolution talks for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire will go into extra time as crunch meeting postponed
13:12 03 March 2016
Negotiations to strike a deal for more funding decisions to flow from Whitehall to East Anglia will go into extra time.
Today’s crucial meeting to rubber stamp an “Eastern Powerhouse” devolution deal has been postponed, with negotiations due to go into next week with no agreement reached between the Treasury and local leaders.
Chancellor George Osborne wants to announce the deal in his budget on March 16, but it is understood that the talks between officials has produced a “disappointing first draft”, with further work needed to be done before it goes to council leaders.
Leaders agreed proposals which went to the Treasury earlier this week.
West Norfolk leader Nick Daubney, who is negotiating on behalf of Norfolk council leaders, said: “As I understand it the position from the Treasury is still to be clarified and until it is we do not know what we are going to be discussing. We have put our plan to the government and we need them to give a reaction to everything in it. Once we have done that we can see what the situation is.”
Council leaders have been working with politicians in Westminster, while officials from local authorities have been liaising with the Treasury.
He said that until the situation was clarified the could not move forward.
“It will be for the leaders to decide whether to start the ball rolling and to go through the democratic process,” he added.
Cambridgeshire only joined discussions with Norfolk and Suffolk earlier this year after a so-called “Valentine’s summit” which saw communities secretary Greg Clark and advisor Lord Heseltine travel to Cambridge to urge them to work with Norfolk and Suffolk on a deal.
Alan Waters, Norwich council leader, said they were still waiting for some final figures with a number of blanks next to pots of money.
He said that they needed to come to a collective view with 27 council leaders across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire around the table, along with their chief executives.
“Really we will have to see a document with figures on crucial sections of infrastructure investment funding before we can come to a view about whether it would deliver for the three counties.
“It has got to please all the council leaders across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.”
He said that housing was going to be a particular sticking point for Norwich, Cambridge and Ipswich councils with the ability to control their housing revenue accounts.
He said it was crucial for the areas to have mixed types of housing, including council houses.
He warned that the Treasury had to take on board their views and they were looking for firm commitments and a firm government position on Monday.