Suffolk's six council leaders and seven MPs make bid for devolved powers
Suffolk leaders have made their pitch to the Government for the county to get devolved powers on areas like transport and skills – with bosses hoping the county will be among those to progress to negotiations for an early deal.
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 lodged a bid in August alongside the police and crime commissioner, backed by all seven MPs in the county.
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.
“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,” Cllr Hicks said.
“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.
“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.
“For example, if you look at ambulance, police and fire stations we are one of the most joined up working in those facilities – we are one of the most advanced counties in the country with shared facilities.”
Other areas of joined up working already in Suffolk that were raised included shared office spaces for some councils, the newly-opened Mildenhall Hub which brings a range of public services together and links between councils and health services.
Work delivered through the public sector leaders group such as the countywide environment plan, business rates pilot and Inclusive Growth Investment Fund were also used as examples of how Suffolk has already come together.
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 being formed for decision making.
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.