Suffolk council leaders’ response to devolution debate
The primary driver for regional devolution is increased economic growth for Suffolk, Norfolk and the wider East Anglian region.
With a combined economy of £32bn, our two counties are two success stories with the potential to be even more prosperous places.
We host some world-leading industries from agri-tech research, global all-energy expertise, high quality food and drink production to internationally renowned ICT research and development.
Our public services are working in more streamlined and joined-up ways than ever before to better support our businesses and help communities to live more fulfilling lives.
Yet we also face significant challenges: a rising population, a poor road and rail network, patchy rural broadband and lower-than-average productivity, but higher-than average low-paid seasonal work. The public sector can do more to help unlock our communities’ potential.
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That is why Suffolk’s council leaders have been working with those in Norfolk and New Anglia LEP, to ensure that we are towards the front of the queue as the Government rolls out its devolution agenda.
Working together, we bring geographic and economic scale and clout, creating a force on a similar scale to city regions such as Liverpool and Sheffield.
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This means local organisations and local people could have more direct influence over the issues that affect them and greater local decision-making on key issues such as infrastructure, transport and skills which will boost job creation, house building and productivity.
Devolution does not allow for a wholesale structural reorganisation of local government that some have been advocating.
To focus on that at this stage would be a distraction.
But both sets of councils already have a growing reputation for co-operative working across boundaries and that has been the foundation upon which our joint bid has been based. In order to achieve regional growth we need to involve Cambridgeshire and discussions continue with their councils and the LEP.
And let’s remember every local authority involved will have to agree to these plans and this will include consulting with local stakeholders.
We had a positive meeting with Government representatives last week and – unlike some devolution bids from other parts of the country – we have been asked to work them up further.
We believe that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure more for our local economy and communities. It is no more than we deserve.
David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council
John Griffiths, Leader St Edmundsbury Borough Council
Derrick Haley, Leader Mid Suffolk District Council
Ray Herring, Leader Suffolk Coastal District Council
Jennie Jenkins, Leader Babergh District Council
Colin Law, Leader Waveney District Council
Colin Noble, Leader Suffolk County Council
Mark Pendlington, Chairman New Anglia LEP
James Waters, Leader Forest Heath District Council