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'A worm at the core'? Leaders challenged over business case for East Anglian devolution

PUBLISHED: 15:03 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:17 28 July 2016

Leaders of East Anglia's devolution bid put the case to businesses at a breakfast event at Norwich University of the Arts. New Anglia LEP chairman Mark Pendlington addressing guests.

Leaders of East Anglia's devolution bid put the case to businesses at a breakfast event at Norwich University of the Arts. New Anglia LEP chairman Mark Pendlington addressing guests.

Archant

Leaders of East Anglia's devolution project were challenged to justify the case for business, as they continued their battle to win support for the deal.

Leaders of East Anglia's devolution bid put the case to businesses at a breakfast event at Norwich University of the Arts.Leaders of East Anglia's devolution bid put the case to businesses at a breakfast event at Norwich University of the Arts.

And they warned that the offer from government could only secured with demonstrable support from the business community, without which the cash risked being redirected to other parts of the country.

Concerns raised by the 100-strong audience in Norwich included government’s motivation for devolution, the adding of a new layer of government and an elected mayor, and whether the lukewarm response to the project thus far suggested there was a “worm at the core” of the deal itself.

But Mark Pendlington, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is about bringing local control and local decision-making here and having business around the table, not just influencing decisions but voting on their priorities.”

He insisted that the four authorities - Norwich, Breckland, North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth - which rejected devolution would not be left behind.

“It’s not us against them, and we are not going to say that none of the money is going to come to those parts of Norfolk,” he added.

The government is offering £25m a year over the next 30 years to spend on new roads, transport links, and another £100m over the next five years to help build affordable homes. Norwich and Ipswich would receive an additional £30m each over the same period.

Adnams chief executive Andy Wood, who chaired the negotiations with government, said East Anglia should follow the lead of other devolved regions.

“This is happening. I don’t think we can afford to be left behind, even if we don’t like some bits of it,” he said.

Alan Waters, the leader of Norwich City Council, called the deal “under-powered”.

The event was hosted by Norfolk Chamber of Commerce at Norwich University of the Arts’ Ideas Factory.

Businesses were asked to sign a letter of support to government, and complete a survey at www.eastangliadevo.co.uk

Do you have a business story? Email mark.shields@archant.co.uk

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