LATEST: Norfolk MP urges government to drop East Anglia devolution plan

MP Sir Henry Bellingham

MP Sir Henry Bellingham

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A Norfolk MP has this evening urged ministers to shelve their current proposals for East Anglian devolution, or risk losing the project altogether.

The plea from North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham follows the publication of a new report which described the latest devolution plans as “complex and untested.”

It also comes amid increasing criticism of the process from council leaders, including one who called it a “shambles.”

Sir Henry said more time was needed to draw up a plan that could carry broad support across the region.

He added: “The government must now accept reality and pull these proposals in their current form. If it doesn’t happen, they’ll lose the whole thing.”

He has previously proposed the formation of a committee of council leaders, police commissioners and local enterprise partnership bosses, who would select their own chairman to lead a devolved structure.

Although he opposes the idea of a directly-elected mayor, he believes this structure could be a stepping stone towards it, if the public endorses the idea in a future referendum.

Sir Henry was speaking after a report from the National Audit Office, published earlier in the day, raised concerns about the process of devolving money and powers to English regions.

The study said the proposals do offer the chance to stimulate economic growth and reform local public services.

But it also warned they were “experimental and unlikely to work as intended in all areas.”

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs has also criticised the process, saying it had become a “shambles.”

He also warned that he could not recommend his authority accepted the current proposals, arguing that county councils should not have the same influence on the proposed combined authority as district authorities.

Sir Henry responded: “When George Nobbs says it’s a shambles, I completely agree with him.”

But, while he acknowledged the need for far greater clarity of governance issues, West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney said he did not believe Mr Nobbs had made a particularly useful contribution to the discussions.

He added: “I think he’s got an inflated sense of importance in the role of the county.”