Formal starting gun fired on talks to give Suffolk leaders more control over public spending

Jennie Jenkins

Jennie Jenkins - Credit: Archant

The formal starting gun has been fired on talks which could lead to group of Suffolk leaders being given control of millions of pounds more cash.

Suffolk has opened formal discussions with the Government about a devolution deal with a request to see health, care and safety cash devolved to the region over a number of years.

It is also asking to be put in charge of apprenticeship grants, designing employment services and how European Union funding will be spent in the region as part of its formal expression of interest to the Government.

In its “Devolved Suffolk” document, which was sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government today it said it wanted to be less reliant on central grants.

The bid was co-authored by district, borough and county council leaders and health and police bosses in Suffolk and is a separate dossier to that submitted by Norfolk this week.

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The Government has asked the regions to put forward their suggestions for how powers could be handed to them ahead of the major spending review which will see billions of pounds of cuts to public sector budgets ordered by George Osborne after the Conservative election victory in May.

Jennie Jenkins, Chairman of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ Group, said: “As leaders of Suffolk’s councils we come from different political viewpoints and majorities, we have different economic drivers in our home territories, different rural and urban pressures, different needs in our populations. But we have chosen to set aside these differences and focus on what’s important – making people’s lives better.

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“This week all eight leaders are encouraging our councillor colleagues to agree to a conversation with Government which could fundamentally transform future services that people value and need. The politics and local concerns will still be there, but we would like to see Suffolk talking as one voice with a government which is saying it is keen to work with us on a devolution of powers from the remote, central style of decision-taking which we feel isn’t right for us.”

“We also need a different way to ensure Suffolk people have the right type of housing in the right places, and that health and access to care doesn’t depend on which organisation has some money available, but what’s best for the person involved. We want to build on our history of collaborative and partnership working across Suffolk to raise aspirations among our young people, plan and integrate new growth better, improve people’s health and the choices they are able to make as they come to the end of their lives,” she said.

“To achieve this, we need to change the way in which the future of Suffolk is shaped. It seems so simple, but the artificial walls around council, police and health responsibilities and budgets – all decided by the Government – need to be broken down before we can make progress.”

County and district councillors across the county will be given a chance to have their say on the proposals, which she said were a “starting point” for lots more conversations.

Sandy Martin, leader of Suffolk County Council Labour Group, said the Labour Party had always been in favour of giving more power to local people, but warned there were “dangers and pitfalls to beware of” which would be raised at the full county council meeting on September 17.

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