‘Residents need a voice in Suffolk’s devolution plans,” say councillors

West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
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Suffolk is looking to take on devolved local government powers so it can make decisions independent of Whitehall.

The seven district councils and county council are being urged to discuss and go forward with the move - dubbed ‘A Devolved Suffolk - Working for a Better Future’.

Cllr Jennie Jenkins, chairman of the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ Group, said: “We hope to persuade the Government that allowing a new model where Suffolk shapes its own future will lead to a more prosperous and resilient county, making fewer demands on the public purse at both local and national level.

“More importantly, it will help to give people more control over their lives and the things they really care about, help their familues to thrive and, with decisions about local services being made at local levels, cost them less.”

The aims of devolution include 70,000 new homes built by 2031, 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2020 with a further 2,500 by 2025 and growth of over £18 billion added to the value of the economy by 2025. It also wants more control over transport and policing.

Councillors have broadly welcomed the move but have stressed it needs to give local residents a voice.

Green Borough Cllr Julia Wakelam said the principle of devolution is the ‘right one’ but the views of all the people of Suffolk need to inform its delivery. She argued that the majority of a new Public Sector Board, which will deal with Central Government, should be directly elected. She said: “The public should have input on such a board’s terms of reference to ensure the economic and policy control of the county is not concentrated in interest groups, but rather works for the benefit of all residents.”

Independent Borough and County Cllr David Nettleton said the plan was ‘all right in principle’ but is ‘not convinced’ it will bring more democracy at a local level.

Sandy Martin, leader of the county Labour Group, said his party has ‘always been in favour of giving more power to local people’. He added: “If the Government accepts the bid document then the hard discussion about detailed proposals can begin in earnest.”

Over the next few weeks the Suffolk devolution deal will go to the cabinet or council in each of the eight borough, county and district councils.