England

Budget 2016: 'Eastern Powerhouse' counties 'to get elected mayor'

Norwich Cathedral
Image caption Devolving powers from Whitehall could help boost transport links to the region's key cities such as Norwich

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced plans for devolved powers to an "Eastern Powerhouse" covering Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

George Osborne announced plans for an elected mayor in his budget.

Last week the three county councils and all but one district authority agreed plans that would devolve some powers from Whitehall.

Norfolk County Council said the plans could bring £1bn to boost the regions' economy.

The mayor could have extra powers and a budget for major transport infrastructure projects.

Mr Osborne told the House of Commons that after devolving powers to Manchester - dubbed the Northern Powerhouse - he was now planning a similar transfer of power to regions in England including East Anglia.

"We've agreed a single powerful East Anglia combined authority, headed up by an elected mayor," he said.

"North, south, east and west, the devolution agenda is taking hold."

The government and local councils have been in discussion about the plans for many months.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Eastern Powerhouse plan is being backed by Chancellor George Osborne

The scheme was first proposed by councils in Norfolk and Suffolk, but the government wanted Cambridgeshire to be part of the plan.

A final deal was completed last Thursday night and was agreed by all the affected county and district councils apart from Cambridge City Council.

The powers to be devolved are expected to include infrastructure and planning responsibilities.

The move could later include provision to make decisions on health and social care issues.

Conservative MP for West Suffolk, Matthew Hancock, said: "The devolution deal brings more money, new powers, and will give us a strong local figurehead who can unite East Anglia and make our case heard locally, nationally and internationally."

Image caption Councillors and business leaders from Norfolk and Suffolk met government officials to discuss their devolution plans

Labour's George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "I have always believed that key decisions on public services are best made by locally elected politicians, answerable to the public, rather than distant bureaucrats in Whitehall."

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