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More background on the County Deal

County Deals are part of the Government's levelling up agenda. The agenda's aim is "to spread opportunity equally across the UK".

A County Deal transfers funding and powers to the county - a process known as devolution. This provides a unique opportunity to:

  • Unlock significant funding
  • Make decisions in Norfolk that are currently made in Whitehall

Norfolk's invitation to begin devolution negotiations for a County Deal was in February 2022. We're one of the first few authorities in the country to start this process.

County Deals already agreed include:

  • North Yorkshire and York
  • Derby
  • Derbyshire
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
  • Cornwall
  • Suffolk

What a County Deal will mean for Norfolk

Securing a County Deal for Norfolk is about changing things for the better for local people. It will give all our residents and businesses the best possible opportunities and experiences.

And it means being at the front of the queue for future powers and funding. The Deal for Norfolk will:

  • Result in us taking more decisions in Norfolk that are currently taken by the Government. People and organisations who know and understand the county and its communities will be taking those decisions.
  • Bring more investment and new funding for Norfolk into local control. This includes £20 million per year for 30 years. There will be significant freedoms to spend on local priorities, and other devolved budgets and powers that we can use to benefit Norfolk.
  • Help us to grow our skills base for the future - matched to local jobs, to attract more businesses and investment. In turn this will boost economic growth and productivity, and raise living standards.
  • Help Norfolk to realise its potential and restore local pride of place. This will be through better housing, better infrastructure, and better local services - including our local roads and transport.
  • Ensure visible leadership, through a directly-elected county council leader

Why more local decision making would be better

Local leaders often know and understand the areas much better than politicians and civil servants based in London.

Their knowledge and experience can deliver what is appropriate and what will work for their region. This is especially true when they work with public and private sector partners.

What's in the proposed 'Deal for Norfolk'

The Government and Norfolk County Council are proposing to work together on a devolution deal.

Agreeing a Deal for Norfolk will mean that, from 2024 onwards, we could:

  • Target funding and resources to Norfolk's own priorities with a new investment fund of £20m per year for 30 years
  • Attract and keep new and key businesses and sectors by strengthening the local business voice. This would inform local decision making and strategic economic planning through the future integration of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
  • Invest in the skills we know we need with devolution of the adult education budget and input into the new Local Skills Improvement Plans
  • Unlock housing and employment sites with an injection of £12.9m capital funding in this Spending Review period. There would also be new powers to drive regeneration, housing, and development priorities.
  • Invest in local transport planning and merge transport budgets to direct funding to meet our local needs and priorities.
  • Raise our national profile. Our voice will be stronger when speaking to Government and it will help shape future policies and funding decisions.
  • Have a Council Leader who is directly elected by the public, with the first election planned for May 2024

How the new Investment Fund will work

Norfolk County Council will use and control the new Norfolk Investment Fund of £20m per year for 30 years (£600m).

We'll use it to drive growth and take forward our own priorities. As with all devolution deals, we'll need to show to Government that money is being invested in the right way and creating a positive impact for our region.

The Government will review and check every five years to ensure residents and businesses in Norfolk can see what is being achieved.

Strengthening our local business voice

At the moment, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) represents both Norfolk and Suffolk's economy and business community.

Partnership work with the LEP over the years has achieved significant investment.

We believe local people and local businesses are best placed to make decisions for their areas in most circumstances.

Now is the time for Norfolk to make its own voice heard. We want to work more directly with local businesses to address their unique needs and ensure a closer alignment with their plans and the skills they need to be successful.

Devolving the Adult Education Budget to improve local skills

Growing and transforming our economy depends on us being able to develop the knowledge and skills of our workforce.

We want employers across Norfolk to be able to find the skilled workers they need in Norfolk. We also want local people to develop the skills they need to get good jobs and increase their life chances.

National policies and programmes are not always suited to Norfolk's particular needs. By devolving the budget for adult education to Norfolk County Council, it would give us a significant opportunity to upskill our workforce.

It would give us more control over skills programmes so they meet the needs of local people and businesses.

Unlocking sites for housing and employment

The proposed Deal recognises the significant housing challenges we face in Norfolk. That's why it makes available millions of pounds to support the development or regeneration of sites across the county.

Many sites prove challenging to develop due to several factors, including:

  • Flooding
  • Low land values
  • Lack of infrastructure

Certain elements of the Deal will help to address some of those issues. For example, the ability to designate development areas and set up Development Corporations to help deliver strategic sites.

A Development Corporation is a statutory body created via secondary legislation to bring forward the regeneration of a designated development area. It has the powers to buy, develop, hold, and dispose of land and property.

It also has the opportunity to secure Government investment to regenerate and revitalise sites to create jobs and housing.

Strengthening our voice with Government and shaping future policies

In adopting the change of governance and having a directly-elected leader, Norfolk would join a small but influential group of areas with devolution deals.

These areas enjoy more direct access to Government ministers and are able to press on matters important their regions.

Areas with directly-elected leadership have secured significant levels of investment for their regions. They also have more direct influence with government and nationally.

With a plan for more devolution deals across England, it's important that Norfolk is not left behind. We want a strong voice to represent the county's interests at the highest level of government.

How a consolidated transport budget is different to our current budget arrangements

Our Deal creates more opportunity to lead on strategic transport development. Decision makers in Norfolk will lead powers and funding.

This will help to create an effective and efficient transport system for the long term. It will also help to give more certainty over future funding and transport improvements for the county.

Consulting on the Deal

We consulted on the County Deal for Norfolk for six weeks from 6 February to 20 March 2023.

We'll feed back the findings from this to our County Councillors and Government for their consideration. Together, they'll make a decision about next steps for our County Deal.

The process for agreeing the Deal

Norfolk County Council's Cabinet will consider the results of the public consultation. They will then agree whether to progress with the Deal.

If they do, they'll submit the consultation outcomes to Government and start the process of putting the required legislation in place. This legislation should pass into law in spring 2024.

The Deal for Norfolk depends upon a County Council resolution in December 2023 to change the Leader and Cabinet executive governance model. This change will be to a 'directly-elected leader and cabinet' governance model.

What happens if devolution doesn't go ahead

We think it would be a major missed opportunity. Norfolk will miss out on the chance of:

  • Getting more investment for business growth
  • Bringing in more jobs, skills, and training
  • Improving the places where we live and work

It's likely to mean we would get left behind compared to other areas who get devolution. It would give them a bigger voice, as well as being able to make more major decisions locally. We would also:

  • Have less influence over future government investment priorities
  • Have to compete more for national funding
  • Lose the chance for a guaranteed funding stream

We do not want Norfolk left behind.

What it means for other local councils if this Deal goes ahead

This is about moving powers and money from Whitehall for the benefit of all our communities. It does not change how councils currently work.

Local councils will continue to have the responsibilities they do now. For example, Norfolk County Council is responsible for:

  • Education
  • Adult and children's social care
  • Planning
  • Fire and public safety
  • Libraries and museums
  • Waste management
  • Household recycling centres
  • Trading standards
  • Highways maintenance

Our District, Borough and City councils are responsible for, among other things:

  • Organising local and national elections
  • Local plans and building control
  • Planning applications
  • Environmental health
  • Waste collection and recycling
  • Council tax and non-domestic rates collection
  • Housing and homelessness prevention
  • Licencing

Councils will continue to work together on their duties, but also to deliver the proposed Deal.

Electing a Council Leader under a County Deal

Our Deal requires Norfolk County Council to change the way it appoints a leader.

We would move from a model where the 84 members of the County Council elect the leader to one where the people of Norfolk elect them.

The County Council's existing officers and systems will support a directly-elected leader. This is different to mayoral combined authorities. Mayors have their own staff and running costs, separate from the local councils.

Election dates and terms of office

Under the current Deal arrangements, Norfolk County Council would hold the election on Thursday 2 May 2024. This would coincide with the county-wide Police and Crime Commissioner election.

The second election would be on Thursday 3 May 2029. This would coincide with all-out County Council elections.

The first elected leader's term will be 5 years. The second term, and the term of the leader thereafter, will be 4 years.

The electorate will be those registered to vote in local elections in the Norfolk County Council area. Council cabinet will support the directly-elected leader.