Ministers urged to spare Norwich from savage spending cuts

Shaun LowthorpeMinisters are facing growing pressure not to wield the axe on projects for some of the most deprived parts of Norwich when getting to grips with the country's �160bn deficit.Shaun Lowthorpe

Ministers are facing growing pressure not to wield the axe on projects for some of the most deprived parts of Norwich when getting to grips with the country's �160bn deficit.

The government is looking to abolish regional development agencies, including Eeda, as part of a two-pronged approach to cut the national debt and hand economic powers back to local councils.

But with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg pledging that other parts of the country such as the North-east, South Yorkshire and London would not be left high and dry because of their high dependency on public sector jobs, there are fears the city could be thrown to the lions because it is seen as relatively prosperous and a net contributor to the Treasury.

Despite its overall levels of prosperity, Norfolk has some the worst pockets of deprivation in the country including parts of Great Yarmouth and Norwich.

While many policymakers locally welcome the demise of Eeda, the government is being warned against taking a blanket approach to cuts because of fears many of those areas Eeda supports will miss out.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who favours the disbanding of Eeda, said she was writing to communities secretary Eric Pickles asking him to set out his alternative plans for economic development in Norfolk and Norwich.

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'East Anglia and particularly parts of Norwich must not miss out,' she said. 'Parts of Norwich such as Mile Cross, Catton Grove and the Pilling Park estate are areas which central and local government must not forget.

'I'm writing to Eric Pickles to ask him what he envisages for the East of England if we take out the RDAs. Norfolk is a really diverse place and it is vital none of that is forgotten.'

Steve Morphew, Norwich City Council leader, said ministers had a misconception about the region because of the strong economic prosperity of areas such as Cambridge which masked the extent of deprivation elsewhere.

'It's worrying when people like Vince Cable, the business secretary, are saying the East of England is already quite prosperous, because what they don't understand is there are two elements to the East of England,' Mr Morphew said.

'His belief that we don't need a development agency is based on the fact you've got Cambridge and the area around there performing very well, but that's really become just an extension of London.

'It misses the point that we've not had the investment in our part of the region and everybody who knows this area, including businesses, would strongly argue that we need that investment and we need a strategic voice to ensure we get it.'

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