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Lord Heseltine to run the rule over Norfolk and Suffolk devolution plans

PUBLISHED: 14:58 03 November 2015 | UPDATED: 14:59 03 November 2015

Conservative politician and former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine  Yui Mok/PA Wire

Conservative politician and former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine Yui Mok/PA Wire

Lord Heseltine is set to run the rule over Norfolk and Suffolk leaders’ plans to win more local control over finances and decision making.

A seven-strong team of council and business leaders will head to the capital for a devolution “challenge session”.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, who has been tasked with overseeing the Government’s devolution project, will look at calls for more control over long-term infrastructure and transport funding, housing projects and productivity. Greater control over youth and adult skills and more joined up health and care services will also be on the agenda. But controversial moves to impose an elected mayor and a combined authority are not set to be top of the list of discussion with leaders saying “powers” rather than the “structures” are the main focus of the session.

In a 2013 report Lord Heseltine said central Government should show more trust in local communities, share more power and do less. He was a famous advocate of the regeneration of the City of Liverpool at a time when it was facing economic collapse and was subsequently made a freeman of the city.

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich council, said: “We are convinced we have an excellent case for devolution to Suffolk and Norfolk that will drive forward our local economy and bring great benefits to Ipswich.”

While Jennie Jenkins, chairman of the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ group, said a great deal of thought and planning had gone into pulling the ideas together.

George Nobbs, who is also part of the negotiating team, said the recently announced devolution deals in Greater Sheffield and the North-East were beginning to give leaders an idea of the government’s thinking.

“Both are benefiting financially from their deal and both are roughly the same size economy as that of the combined Norfolk/Suffolk bid. We in East Anglia are in a good position to make a compelling case for greater devolution to drive economic growth and support job growth in the two counties,“ he added.

Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters said: “We have been working closely with the county and our neighbouring councils as part of the Greater Norwich Growth Partnership to grow the economy of the city – and that is at the heart of this devolution deal. Norwich is very strong across a number of key sectors and through this bid we are looking to generate more jobs and provide much-needed housing for the benefit of the greater Norwich area and beyond.”

More discussions and further details will have to be submitted before the Comprehensive Spending Review later this month when initial proposals could be accepted.

But there will be a formal consultation about any plans for an elected mayor or combined authority and any final deal document would need to be agreed by all 16 councils and the local enterprise partnership.

The negotiating team will be Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere, Chairman of the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ group Jennie Jenkins, Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs, Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble, New Anglia local enterprise partnership chairman Mark Pendlington, Broadland council leader Andrew Proctor and Norwich council leader Alan Waters.

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