Devolution – why no time to plan?

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

“As predicted the Government having given a ridiculous short timescale for Norfolk and Suffolk to put in Devolution submissions, are now suggesting a joint submission. Although this in itself is not a surprise, a deadline for the end of this week is just plain short sighted.

Although the concept of devolution is positive, that funding should be in the hands of local decision makers, how can an innovative plan be created at such short notice? In addition one of Norfolk’s major stakeholders i.e. the business community, has not been not involved in this cross-border devolution deal bid.

At a dinner in Guildford last week, I was able to question Lord O’Neil of Gatley, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, who is responsible for masterminding devolution with the Chancellor. Lord O’Neil’s vision was to create a Northern Powerhouse which linked up key cities in the North, within 40 miles of each other to assist in attracting investment to the area. He seemed surprised to have received so many different types of bids from across the UK, as this did not meet with his original concept.

He was clear that the bids needed to create ‘added value’ as money was very tight and would continue to get tighter.

What concerns me about this process is that there is already a lot of talk relating to structure such as “a super council” or a “combined administration” without time for a clear well thought out proposal to meet the Government’s requirements of being “ambitious enough.”  Devolution will have a far reaching effect on the local economy and the Government should allow time for new bids to be planned effectively.

The Northern Powerhouse councils were given time to get it right, why is that being denied to us?”

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