Ipswich MP Tom Hunt puts an East Anglian mayor back on agenda

Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt has asked the government to look again at East Anglian devolution.

Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt has asked the government to look again at East Anglian devolution. Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN - Credit: Archant

More than three years after plans were shelved, a new attempt to put East Anglian devolution back on the political agenda has been launched by Ipswich MP Tom Hunt.

Mr Hunt, a former aide to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor James Palmer, has sent a written question to the Department of Housing and Local Government to ask what plans there were to elect a local mayor to represent Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

He said he felt the area needed a strong voice in negotiations with the government - especially as East Anglia was seen by many to be at risk of losing out in the race for major infrastructure projects to the north and midlands.

Mr Hunt said: "We have seen what important figures West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham have become in talks with government and in the race for investment. This area needs someone of that stature to represent it in discussions with the government."

He had an open mind on whether the area covered by devolution should be Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, or just the two more easterly counties: "But I think it would have to be more than just Suffolk itself."

The last time devolution was discussed, in 2016, all the councils in Suffolk backed a directly-elected mayor covering the two counties - but Norfolk councils were split and the government said it could only go ahead if there was backing from all authorities and the issue has remained dormant since.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, whose constituency is on the border of the two counties, said he could see the benefits of having an elected mayor representing the region in negotiations with the government.

"But I don't think we should have a model imposed by the government - it would have to be something that comes from local people. The issues in rural areas like East Anglia are different to those in major cities like Birmingham or Manchester."

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Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said he was waiting for an expected Government White Paper on devolution and local government before there were any further discussions.

If there is any new move to devolution, the minister involved knows this region well - it is the responsibility of Norwich North MP Chloe Smith.