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Whitehall chiefs to visit Suffolk in the next few weeks as part of bid for devolved powers



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Whitehall chiefs are set to visit Suffolk in the next few weeks as the county bids for devolved powers – and a final decision should be made in the autumn.

Suffolk is pursuing a ‘level two’ devolution deal – one with more powers for Suffolk County Council but without a directly-elected mayor.

That will include responsibilities around local transport, adult education, climate change actions, bus franchising and skills improvement plans, among others.

Suffolk County Council headquarters. Picture: Jason LDRS
Suffolk County Council headquarters. Picture: Jason LDRS

The county was one of nine areas in February confirmed to enter negotiations with the Government, with regular meetings having taken place since then.

On Friday, Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks confirmed Government officials will visit the county this summer, likely to be in the next few weeks, as part of its assessments.

An October decision is expected, he told the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders meeting of council, police and health bosses.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said the feedback for devolved powers has been positive. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said the feedback for devolved powers has been positive. Picture: Suffolk County Council

Another meeting with Neil O’Brien, Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution is set to take place next week, Cllr Hicks confirmed.

“I think the feedback is very positive for Suffolk,” Cllr Hicks said.

“Definitely Suffolk is seen as a credible partner, somewhere that wants to work hard with Government to develop a deal, and I think the contributions we make around trade, around energy, around innovation are all clear.

“But there are also parts of Suffolk that we do know would really benefit from levelling up as well.

“Importantly, there is really a strong Suffolk desire to do this together. I think Government does recognise that Suffolk has pulled together and wants to do this together as one.

“They are very clear that we are ambitious and we want to be at the front of the queue. From what we are hearing, that is the position we are in, so we look forward to moving forward with officials on that.”

The exact nature of what powers are to be devolved are still up for discussion, but Cllr Hicks said he expects there will be “some real concrete ideas in writing by the end of July”.

Another item to be discussed surrounds the future of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We have had meetings with Norfolk and with the LEP to look at what might be the best model going forward,” Cllr Hicks said.

“Clearly the LEP has had a very strong role and a positive influence in Norfolk and Suffolk, but what we do know is under the legislation the LEP will be no more.

“So it is about what will be the best model going forward – is it separating into a Norfolk and a Suffolk model, is it continuing in a different guise as it is now, and that work is under way. We will have to look at the various options and discuss those options between us.”