Alternative East Anglian devolution deal proposed

Deborah McGurran
Political editor, East of England

image captionThe agreement recognises the importance of places like the Cambridge business sector, the Norwich Research Park and University Campus Suffolk

The battle for devolution in East Anglia has taken another turn, with council leaders in Cambridgeshire writing to the government to propose an alternative deal.

We understand that under the so-called "brother and sister" deal, local authorities in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk would agree to work more closely together. But instead of a combined authority and a mayor covering the three counties - there would be two: one for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and one for Norfolk and Suffolk.

Those behind the proposal tell us that having two separate authorities would take the heat out of the concerns about an East Anglian mayor.

They say it would be more manageable to deliver savings within local government and argue the move would double the size of Cambridgeshire's economy over the next 25 years.

But the suggestion has not been well received by supporters of East Anglian devolution in Norfolk, who insist that "the deal on the table is the deal on the table".

One council leader told me: "This is cherry-picking; Cambridgeshire has a superiority complex."

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe Eastern Powerhouse plan is being backed by Chancellor George Osborne

At a recent Parliamentary debate, the Local Government Minister James Wharton told MPs the government had no plans to consider any other deals. But supporters of the Cambridgeshire plan say they've had indication from officials it may not be the case.

We understand Local Government Secretary Greg Clark is due to visit the region in the next few days.

What we can't tell at the moment is whether he will insist that the original deal on the table must stand or whether he's prepared to compromise.

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