Suffolk bids for place in devolution pilot which could bring county mayor

Matthew Hicks

Matthew Hicks said Suffolk councils' ability to work together was crucial to the bid. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Could Suffolk end up with a directly-elected mayor as part of a government pilot scheme for a new form of devolution across England?

The county council has put in an application to take part in the pilot scheme that will help the government draw up a White Paper on possible English devolution later in the year.

At the moment there are no clear indications of what services a devolved authority would be responsible for - or how it would inter-act with existing councils - or whether it would be run by an elected mayor.

But the county has linked up with all Suffolk's districts and boroughs, the county's Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore and its seven MPs to ask the government for it to be included in the pilot scheme.

They believe the fact that all Suffolk's local authorities and MPs are prepared to work together to back the move could be crucial.

County Council leader Matthew Hicks said: "We have shown over many years, but especially since the Covid crisis began, that public sector organisations in Suffolk can work together very effectively - and therefore we feel there is a good chance that we could be included in the pilot scheme."

Although details of what powers any new body will have are sketchy - council leaders believe that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is very keen on a single point of leadership, like a mayor. He was Mayor of London for eight years.

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The government has said the devolution across the country would be based on that seen in an increasing number of urban areas including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the West Midlands, and Yorkshire.

There elected mayors have varying powers - but are able to direct key decisions in their areas on issues like planning, transport, housing and economic development.

The seven MPs all signed a letter prepared by West Suffolk's Matt Hancock backing the bid which has been sent to Local Government secretary Robert Jenrick. 

In it they say: "For many years local leaders in Suffolk at all levels have worked more closely together, and have put forward constructive propositions for further improvements.

"We hope to work with you on your forthcoming White Paper to show that strong local leadership and strengthened local governance can deliver better.”

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