Two counties ‘could work’ in a devolution deal, says LEP boss

The extension of the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme is welcomed at County Hall. Mark Pendlin

The extension of the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme is welcomed at County Hall. Mark Pendlington, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership chairman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Suffolk and Norfolk’s business, political and education enterprise partnership favours the two county dynamic, its boss has claimed as plans are being drawn up for regions to win more powers from Whitehall.

Chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Mark Pendlington said his organisation is at the heart of discussions on devolution across the two counties.

A landmark deal to give more power over transport and health budgets in Greater Manchester was rubber-stamped in the Chancellor’s emergency budget in June, and the first round of bids for other “devolution deals” are due to be submitted next month.

Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble has said officers are drawing up a bid along county lines, but was open to working with Norfolk. Norfolk County Council’s chief has raised the prospect of working with Suffolk.

Mr Pendlington said: “The LEP is really involved in the discussions already. That is not only because the Government has said there will be no deal without evidence of LEP support. Although that was helpful, we were active in the way our collaborations work. We were having a very free and open discussion across Norfolk and Suffolk about what the LEP wants to be.

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“I have a very clear view that I think Norfolk and Suffolk as an entity is stronger because we can operate at scale for all of these reasons.

“We have proved it can work. There has been an enormous sea change in the relationship between the two counties.

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“This is not because of the LEP, but because of the way we have all been working together in support of the LEP. There are dialouges across the county border which are really helpful and constructive.”

n See next Tuesday’s business supplement for the full interview.

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