Suffolk and Norfolk must vote for directly-elected mayor if they want devolution from central Government
- Credit: Su Anderson
There will be no meaningful devolution in East Anglian without a directly-elected mayor for Suffolk and Norfolk.
That was the blunt message from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as local politicians in the two counties continue to argue about what shape of devolution they want to see in the region.
In response to a series of questions to the councils, the central government, and the DCLG, from us and our sister newspapers in Norfolk, officials in Whitehall were quite clear about the need for democratic oversight in the shape of a directly-elected mayor.
We asked the DCLG: “Would a combined authority have to have an elected mayor?”
Their answer had little room for doubt: “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.”
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However despite the DCLG’s insistence that they have been clear, officials in Suffolk are still not thinking about bringing in an elected mayor.
In response to our question about the subject, they said: “We are not aware of any ‘deal-breakers’ because as yet there is no ‘deal’ on the table. What we have are discussions and ongoing negotiations. So it’s far too early to answer this question.”
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And Norfolk said it believed the issue would never arise. The counties’ responses suggest there has been some confusion in the talks between the region and Whitehall on the importance of elected mayors.
But with central government holding all the cards – devolution cannot proceed without its say-so – the future of the local councils’ proposals looks extremely rocky.
We have published all the questions and responses we submitted to Suffolk and Norfolk councils, to the DCLG, and to the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership online.
They can be found at www.eadt.co.uk attached to this story in the politics section.