Questions and answers from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership

Local Government Secretary Greg Clark.

Local Government Secretary Greg Clark. - Credit: Archant

1)When did you first contact local authorities in Suffolk and Norfolk about the potential for them receiving devolved powers? What did that contact involve? If a letter/email was sent, can we see a copy of that letter?

Local authorities were invited to submit proposals on July 21, 2015.

2) There seems to have been some confusion about when expressions of interest had to be submitted. Our council seemed to believe the September 4 deadline did not apply outside of the so-called Northern Powerhouse. What did the DCLG do to correct this confusion and when? If a letter/email was sent to councils in Norfolk and Suffolk, can we see a copy?

The deadline for proposals to be submitted to the government was September 4 2015 for areas that wanted to negotiate a deal by the spending review and this was communicated clearly to all local authorities.

3) We understand councils have been told that the need for an early application (and submissions of complete bids by October 22) is so an announcement can be made at the Conservative Party conference. Is that true?

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The timetable has been dictated by the desire to agree deals as quickly as possible so we can deliver devolution throughout this parliament. We will continue to consider submissions from all places.

4) Why has the DCLG said bids should fit in with LEP areas? Please explain the rationale behind that.

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LEPs are important local economic areas but it is for local areas to come forward with their proposals.

5) If a Norfolk/Suffolk combined authority does happen, would it be appropriate for the chairman or other non-local authority member of the LEP to sit on it, given they are unelected?

It is ultimately for local areas to decide the arrangements for any combined authority structures – including voting rights of its members.

6) There has been some debate about how any devolution deal must be fiscally neutral, Can you explain what that means? If a council is devolved powers over, say transport or health , how will it be worked out how much funding they will get to exercise those powers?

The aim is to devolve existing budgets and funding streams to local partners along with powers so they can come up with proposals and make decisions that suit local conditions without increasing demands on the taxpayer.

7) There has been criticism that this process has been unnecessarily rushed and councils have been pressured to get in early bids? What is the DCLG’s response to that criticism?

We disagree. We have provided significant time and support for local authorities to put together bids. Devolution will provide significant benefits and we want local people to benefit from them as soon as possible.

8) Would a combined authority have to have an elected mayor?

We have been clear we will only transfer major powers to areas that adopt a directly elected executive mayor for the full combined authority area.

9) In all of this, has anybody thought perhaps we should scrap the county councils and go to one-tier government? Why is unitary such a toxic word? Won’t the preservation of two tiers merely result in extra costs as officials and councillors travel between two areas?

This government is keen to see close working locally whether in the form of combined authorities, unitaries or through authority mergers. This can only be achieved through local consensus and this government will not impose an arrangement on an area.

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