Cabinet recommends a way forward on devolution
County councillors meet next week to decide on proposals to transfer key powers and funding to Norfolk, after the cabinet recommended acceptance of a deal and a May 2025 election.
Last December, Norfolk County Council and the Government signed an in principle agreement to transfer key powers and funding to Norfolk - known as a level three county deal. This includes a £20m per year investment fund, plus powers and funding for transport, brownfield regeneration and skills.
Following public consultation earlier this year and further negotiations with the Government, four options were considered by the cabinet this morning:
- Proceeding with the current, in principle deal, which would see voting for a directly elected leader in May 2024 - a year ahead of the county council elections.
- Proceeding with the current, in principle deal, but with voting taking place in May 2025, alongside the county council elections, after the Government agreed to allow this option to be considered.
- Going back to Government and negotiating a level two deal, which would mean Norfolk wouldn't receive the £20m per year investment fund and other funding and powers over transport and brownfield sites - but would have adult education funding devolved to the county
- Deciding not to proceed with a devolution deal.
The cabinet has agreed to recommend option two - a level three deal, with an election in May 2025 - to full council, which meets on 12 December.
County council leader, Councillor Kay Mason Billig, explained the options on offer. She said she favoured a level three deal with a leader elected in May 2025. This would save money, by taking place at the same time as the county council elections, and giving more time to prepare and to involve the public and partners.
She said Norfolk had already gained additional benefits from negotiating with the Government over the last year and was being considered for up to £9.4m of extra funding for community and infrastructure schemes.
Cllr Mason Billig said she was being encouraged by businesses and other key partners to be bold and pursue a level three deal. An elected leader for Norfolk would join the existing 10 elected mayors in meetings with the Government.
She said: "If we don't take this step, I don't believe the people of Norfolk will forgive us. We will be put at the back of the queue for further funding and will be left in the wilderness by Westminster."
Deputy council leader, Councillor Andrew Jamieson, said: "I'm extremely pleased we are recommending a full level three deal, to get all of the financial benefits and the devolved powers on offer to us."
The full county council meets at 10am on Tuesday 12 December, to decide whether to accept the cabinet's recommendation. Watch the meeting, live or afterwards, and read the report.
For an overview of the county deal, including an infographic and the full deal text, please see www.norfolk.gov.uk/norfolkcountydeal
Background - what would a county deal mean?
Norfolk faces a major opportunity to gain new powers and funding from the Government, through an agreement called the County Deal.
We could make more decisions in Norfolk, for Norfolk and secure investment of more than £600m over 30 years. If councillors agree the in principle deal, it will enable us to invest in areas such as transport, skills and job opportunities, housing and regeneration, tailored to the needs of local people.
A County Deal would mean:
- Having a Council Leader who is directly elected by the public, enabling Norfolk's voice to be heard by the Government
- Targeting funding and resources to Norfolk's own priorities
- Unlocking housing and employment sites
- Investing in the skills we need and attracting and retaining key businesses
- Opening the door to more - further powers and funding in future