Suffolk set to consider what new powers could be on the way

County Council chief executive Deborah Cadman.

County Council chief executive Deborah Cadman. - Credit: Contributed

Local authorities from across Suffolk are to work together to try to build a case for the county to have more powers of public sector spending.

But council leaders insist this will not lead to the formation of a “unitary Suffolk” by the back door.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet is today due to discuss how to draw up a devolution proposal that will eventually be submitted to the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government.

There have already been preliminary talks between leaders and chief executives of all of Suffolk’s local authorities – but eventually any devolution of powers from Westminster could involve more than just council powers.

It could also involve policing, health care and some Department of Work and Pensions functions – as well as increased powers for economic development and improving the skills of the workforce.

The devolution proposals could also give local authorities to keep more money raised in the area – the government has already announced that councils in Cambridgeshire will be able to retain business rates.

Proposals to increase local government powers in England were first outlined by the government following the Scottish referendum last year.

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In the wake of the general election, the government is pressing ahead with plans to devolve powers to cities in the north of England, starting with Manchester.

However it wants to also look at extending this devolution to other parts of the country – and has asked authorities across the country to give their views on how such a move could work in their part of the world.

Suffolk County Council chief executive Deborah Cadman said there was a danger if Suffolk did not take part in the discussions, changes could be imposed by the government.

She said: “We already have done some significant work on this with projects like Lowestoft Rising and we are clear that we want to look further into how we work together on this.”

The paper being discussed today says: “Suffolk’s leaders want to maximise all of the opportunities and levers available.

“Consequently, it would be prudent to explore the benefits of devolution and how it could enhance economic and social value for central government, local partners and Suffolk’s people.”

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