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Call for 'extra information' on devolution proposals for the Eastern region rejected

PUBLISHED: 11:46 25 July 2016 | UPDATED: 11:50 25 July 2016

County councillor Steve Morphew. Picture: Denise Bradley

County councillor Steve Morphew. Picture: Denise Bradley

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A call for extra information on the thorny issue of a devolution proposals for the Eastern region to be circulated to Norfolk homes has been rejected.

Two deals to devolve powers from Whitehall are currently on the table – one for Norfolk and Suffolk and one for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The public is being asked for its views, with the consultation, including leaflets, an on-line questionnaire and Ipsos-Mori telephone survey of 3,000 people, costing a minimum of £130,000.

But Labour county councillor Steve Morphew today put forward a motion at Norfolk County Council expressing the authority’s “regret” at the material’s “limited and biased view of the devolution proposals”.

His motion asked the full council to instruct managing director Dr Wendy Thomson to “use reasonable means to circulate additional information to residents sufficient to redress the pro devolution agreement bias”.

The council agreed last month to put the matter out for consultation, but four authorities in Norfolk - Norwich, Breckland, North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth - voted not to continue with the process.

Each deal would have a combined authority and directly elected mayor, with the government prepared to transfer powers, such as over transport and infrastructure.

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, plus an additional £30m over the same period specifically for Norwich and Ipswich, although it is still unclear what will happen to that promise now Norwich has signalled it does not want to be part of the process.

Mr Morphew said the consultation was “biased” and “not even-handed” and risked damaging the council’s reputation.

But the council’s Conservative leader Cliff Jordan said he did not believe the consultation was biased.

He said he was in favour of devolution, but not in favour of an elected mayor, and trusted the Norfolk public to make up their own minds.

The motion was defeated, by 38 votes to 34, with three abstentions.

Last week, Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said the authority had made the right decision not to be “shackled to a rural combined authority”.

He said the council had “given some thought” as to whether the authority should put out its own leaflets following the county consultation.

But he said: “We then thought hang on, we had a council meeting where we resolved to withdraw from the process, so had we issued a document of our own we would be contradicting the decision we made.

“I don’t think we should get involved in a tit for tat consultation and I expect the response to the county’s consultation will be small.”

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