Devolution talks for Suffolk - but elected mayor may be resisted
- Credit: Greg Brown
Suffolk has secured an invitation for a ‘county deal’ that will see more powers devolved from Westminster to local leaders.
The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders (SPSL) group of council chief executives and leaders made a bid in Whitehall last autumn, and this morning has been confirmed as one of nine areas across the country invited to begin negotiations.
It comes as part of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper to deliver more decision-making.
It could have powers around areas like regional transport, business support, skills and economic development among others.
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said: “We are hugely ambitious for Suffolk, so to be one of the few areas in the country to be offered a county deal is a fantastically welcome opportunity. I am delighted.
“We are eager to enter the next phase of negotiations with Government to develop our county deal. We intend to secure maximum benefits and investment for Suffolk.
“This deal is the result of an ongoing dialogue to promote Suffolk to central Government strongly supported by our MPs and the partnership working with district and borough councils.
“Going forward this partnership working will continue alongside health partners, emergency services, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the chamber of commerce. This stands us in good stead to make a success of Suffolk’s county deal.”
It is understood that Suffolk’s chiefs are resisting elected mayor-style leadership like London or Manchester and had been keen for a leadership group to fulfil that role, but that will likely be a part of the negotiations and could still require a single figurehead.
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It is understood different models of governance are being considered by government.
A timeline for the next steps have not yet been outlined, but the Government has pledged that “by 2030, every part of England that wishes to have a ‘London-style’ devolution deal will have one”.
In addition, Suffolk has been announced today as one of 55 new Education Investment Areas to help disadvantaged youngsters.
Those areas will be prioritised for new specialist free school sixth forms, retention payments to help keep teachers and a new pilot scheme to help pupil attendance.
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said: “Suffolk is a wonderful place to live and deserves a world class education system.
“This much needed support that Suffolk is receiving from the Government will help us retain the best teachers here, and is earmarked for new specialist sixth form free schools to give talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds the highest standard of education.
“It’s all about helping every child in our county reach their potential. I look forward to working with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Rachel Hood at Suffolk County Council to get the best we can from this very welcome investment.”
Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Rachel Hood, added: “This is excellent news. The overall standards of achievement in Suffolk needs to be improved for our children and young people and this is a real opportunity to improve education across the county.”