Devolution deal decision set for the autumn

Matthew Hicks

Matthew Hicks said Suffolk councils' ability to work together was crucial to the bid. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Whitehall chiefs are set to visit Suffolk in the next few weeks as the county bids for devolved powers – and a final decision should be made in the autumn.

Suffolk is pursuing a ‘level two’ devolution deal – one with more powers for Suffolk County Council but without a directly-elected mayor.

That will include extra responsibilities around local transport, adult education, climate change actions, bus franchising and skills improvement plans, among others.

The county was one of nine areas in February confirmed to enter negotiations with the Government, with regular meetings having taken place since then.

On Friday, Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks confirmed Government officials will visit the county this summer as part of its assessments.

An October decision is expected, he told the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders meeting of council, police and health bosses.

“I think the feedback is very positive for Suffolk,” Mr Hicks said.

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“Definitely Suffolk is seen as a credible partner, somewhere that wants to work hard with Government to develop a deal, and I think the contributions we make around trade, around energy, around innovation are all clear.

“But there are also parts of Suffolk that we do know would really benefit from levelling up as well.

“Importantly, there is really a strong Suffolk desire to do this together. I think Government does recognise that Suffolk has pulled together and wants to do this together as one.

“They are very clear that we are ambitious and we want to be at the front of the queue. From what we are hearing, that is the position we are in, so we look forward to moving forward with officials on that.”

The exact nature of what powers are to be devolved are still up for discussion, but Mr Hicks said he expects there will be “some real concrete ideas in writing by the end of July”.

Another item to be discussed surrounds the future of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We have had meetings with Norfolk and with the LEP to look at what might be the best model going forward,” Mr Hicks said.