Suffolk leaders bid for devolution at top-level Whitehall meeting

Ipswich Waterfront is fit for any city.

Suffolk has made a bid for devolved powers. Pictured is Ipswich Waterfront - a key part of the county's economy - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Suffolk is hoping it is a step closer to receiving devolved powers after a top-level Westminster meeting to pitch for an early deal.

The county is looking to get powers to make its own decisions on spending on issues like transport and skills.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in August announced a County Deal programme where counties could collaboratively pitch for devolved powers in a similar manner to how metro mayors and cities operate.

The leaders of all six of Suffolk’s county, district and borough councils immediately lodged a bid alongside the police and crime commissioner, backed by all seven Suffolk MPs.

Matthew Hicks

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks - Credit: Gregg Brown

In September, Mid Suffolk leader Suzie Morley and county council leader Matthew Hicks gave a 30-minute pitch to the Government outlining why Suffolk should be chosen.

Mr Hicks said: “I am really pleased Suffolk has been able to flag up our ambition and look at the opportunity a county deal might bring to our county.

“We did lead the discussions with government officials, and actually we were able to highlight Suffolk’s very strong track record of working together and our joined up delivery approach.

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“We emphasised that Suffolk Public Sector Leaders [a monthly meeting of council, police and health chiefs across the county] is in place, it works well and we are ready to deliver already.

“We then went on to give early examples of ideas that we could use to shape a deal, and we highlighted examples of where by coming together we could provide better value for money for the taxpayer and better outcomes."

Big Ben in London with the houses of parliament and ornate street lamp Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Houses of Parliament - Westminster - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

They highlighted areas such as ambulance, police and fire crews sharing stations, shared office spaces for some councils, the new Mildenhall Hub which brings a range of public services together, the countywide environment plan, business rates pilot and Inclusive Growth Investment Fund.

It is not yet clear how a County Deal model will work, whether that will feature a single leader in the style of metro mayors or bodies like the public sector leaders group making decisions.

The DLUHC has not committed to a date on when authorities will find out if they have been successful, but said that further engagement work is likely to be needed to determine which areas progress to the negotiations stage of an early deal.

Cllr Morley, who chairs the SPSL group added: “It’s the strong collaborative leadership across the whole of Suffolk that I am most proud of. Clearly it is something ministers wanted to see.

“I am really proud of our collaborative way of working and I think that sets us apart from even our close neighbours.”

It is anticipated that more details will be unveiled later in the month in the Government’s white paper on County Deals.

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