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Devolution is so hard to stomach

Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds ANL-151025-114649001
Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds ANL-151025-114649001

A new idea is brewing in East Anglia. The proposal is to transfer power from Whitehall to local people – they call it devolution.

Will the politicians’ latest wheeze be as successful as Bury St Edmunds’ famous Greene King or merely prove to be a Westminster diktat leading to another layer of Governmental bureaucracy?

The ‘Eastern Powerhouse’ three-county idea involving Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, was first announced during George Osborne’s 2016 Budget. Comprising a combined authority, along with a directly-elected Mayor, this new tier of local government would assume responsibility from Whitehall for transport, strategic planning and skills training. Decisions once made in Westminster would now be transferred to local people – supposedly giving greater accountability.

However, it emerged in late May that the devolution deal was to be split into two: one area for Suffolk and Norfolk, the other Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Ambiguity surrounds the deal as the specifics remain undecided, but another level of government appears a certainty within the next year.

Will this new authority be the icing to complete the Government’s metaphorical cake by increasing local decision-making? Or is it merely adding another unwanted, unappetising tier that no one wants? Too much cake is known to cause sickness.

Surely, adding a new layer of government should directly benefit the next generation of East Anglia: the first-time buyers, those in education, people struggling to find their first full-time job.

The needless imposition of additional government will not build more affordable houses, not increase the quality of education for all, and certainly not help people to find employment. So it is of little surprise that the younger generation simply do not care about this entire project.

It is vital that younger people begin to form interests in local matters and engage in political discussion – yet a meagre 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in the 2015 general election. So why is it that the Government seems obsessed on further alienating young people?

The unnecessary creation of extra government merely fuels apathy and frustration with the state. People simply don’t want more politicians. The Government should be legislating to reduce separation yet, all this absurd monetary misuse achieves is marginalising the youth whilst broadening the distance to Westminster. Young and fresh minds of tomorrow need to be captured by politics not deterred by it.

Bury St Edmunds resident, Lord Tebbit (who commented that devolution ‘will only raise costs and introduce another layer of government’), supported this view in the House of Lords recently. East Anglia would much rather have the deserved funding without the extraneous bureaucracy. Is this really too unreasonable to ask?

Devolving powers may well have some restricted merits - with those likely to gain a sharp new title for their gleaming business card suspiciously keen to enlighten us about them. But once scrutinised, the deal offers little more than a waste of money that should instead be used to tackle the issues facing young people rather than pushing them away from politics.

Seemingly, too much devolution cake is set to cause East Anglia one hell of a political stomach-ache.

-- Harry Stonebridge is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds


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