Suffolk is to get a directly-elected mayor to run the county council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the House of Commons.

Jeremy Hunt made the announcement during his Autumn Budget, telling the House: "Today I can announce a new devolution deal that will bring an elected mayor to Suffolk and deals to bring mayors to Cornwall, Norfolk and an area of the North East will follow shortly."

New legislation is needed before the first Suffolk mayor is elected - the role is essentially that of a directly-elected council leader.

Unlike mayors in other parts of the country, there will be no new bureaucracy supporting the role but the council will be led by someone with his or her own mandate from the voters, not chosen by the ruling group at the authority.

Ipswich Star: Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks.Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks. (Image: Suffolk County Council)

The news was welcomed by Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks, who said: "We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government has committed to agreeing a truly historic deal for Suffolk – the first county deal of its kind in the country.

"This deal will be a significant step on our county’s journey towards devolution and more control over our future.

“If agreed, this provisional deal would deliver decades of significant additional investment into local priorities that will improve the lives and outcomes of Suffolk’s residents; secure greater decision-making powers around transport, infrastructure and skills; and give us the powers we need to achieve our net zero ambitions and create the Greenest County."

However, opposition politicians were more sceptical about the proposal - and felt it could lead to problems in the future.

Ipswich Star: Opposition leader Andrew Stringer.Opposition leader Andrew Stringer. (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

Official opposition leader at the county Andrew Stringer said: "This looks like a really bad idea with no accountability and a recipe for disaster for the people of Suffolk.

"You would have the council led by someone who isn't a councillor, who doesn't have their own ward and may not even be from the same party as the majority of the councillors.

"What happens if you get someone elected who doesn't share the views of most councillors? Nothing would get done!"

He said people would be confused about who to contact if they had a problem that the council needed to sort out - their local councillor or the mayor who they elected directly.

His fears were shared by former Labour councillor Jack Abbott who is now standing as the party's candidate in Ipswich.

He said: "This really doesn't look very good for the county - you could get a mayor, or whatever it is called, from one party or an independent and a majority of councillors from another party who just try to frustrate the leadership. 

"That's just like they're getting in America at the moment - it's not great for anyone."

With the directly-elected mayor would come new powers and possibly new government funding - but all this would be confirmed in the next few weeks.

And there is no word yet on when the changes could be introduced - although with the county council next up for election in 2025 that could be a likely timescale for its implementation.

The new mayor would not take over running service currently in the hands of district councils - nor the powers of the Police and Crime Commissioner, which will remain a separate office altogether.

Mr Hicks said: “The powers and funding on offer have changed since we made our initial bid in August 2021. The Government is actively progressing only the most ambitious devolution deals but, in return, is seeking greater changes to the way local government is led.

"Therefore, in exchange for the greatest freedoms and funding, we are now minded to pursue a model whereby the leader of Suffolk County Council is directly elected by the people of Suffolk.

"This proposed change would not add any new levels of bureaucracy nor create any new offices.

“In keeping with Suffolk’s collaborative way of working, we have developed this deal in partnership with our district and borough colleagues, the Police and Crime Commissioner and our MPs.

"It will now be taken forward to public consultation with Suffolk’s communities and businesses.”