As part of the proposed Norfolk and Suffolk Devolution deal, an opportunity has arisen for the business community to influence plans that could see local control over more than £1bn of funding for the region.
The term devolution means transferring powers over budgets and services from central government to local councils. In the case of the Norfolk and Suffolk deal, this will involve appointing an Elected Mayor and forming a combined authority where local councils join together to make decisions. If the deals are agreed, elections for the Mayor would take place in May 2017 and the combined authority will receive £750m over the next 30 years for investment in infrastructure, economic growth and jobs. A further £130m will be allocated for housing, £225m for transport and £20m to be invested in skills through powers at a local level.
So how can local businesses get involved?
Norfolk and Suffolk represent a £34bn economy, with particular strengths in the agriculture, technology, food and drink, health, energy and digital sectors. Our region thrives on its diversity, with its cities, rural and coastal communities accommodating SMEs to world-leading operations. Plans for the proposed devolution deal are hoped to accelerate further growth in the area and improve connectivity across the region, including transport and communication connections.
Councils in Norfolk and Suffolk have undertaken a Governance Review to look at the pros and cons of forming a combined authority and how it could work. Through a public consultation, they are now asking local people and businesses what they think of the plans, which include the creation of 95,000 jobs by 2026, investment in road and rail infrastructure and reviewing education to offer the skills local employers need.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Devolution is one of two proposed deals that form the East Anglian Devolution deal, with the other being the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Devolution. They were drawn up between Central Government and 19 councils across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Greater Cambridge/Greater Peterborough LEP.
Whether you agree with the devolution deal or not, this consultation is a good opportunity to have your say on decision-making that will ultimately affect your business and quality of life.
Having been a business owner in the East of England for 25 years before becoming a business coach in Norfolk, I would like to see our business community benefit from having decisions made at a local level – and it is up to businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk to get involved to shape how these decisions are made. It is a chance to make sure that the local environment is equipped to support our region’s businesses, which makes sense not only to strengthen our local economy but to enhance our contribution nationally.
The consultation is now open and will run until Tuesday, 23 August. Have your say by visiting the East Anglia Devolution website.