Suffolk targets devolution talks with Government
Public sector leaders in Suffolk are pressing the Government for early discussions about a possible devolution deal for Suffolk, following government plans to offer 'devolution' deals to County-level government.
In a joint letter sent to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the leaders of all of Suffolk’s six councils along with the Police and Crime Commissioner, said:
“Suffolk has already demonstrated its credibility as a place where Government will find strong and ambitious delivery partners. The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group has a track record of effective partnership working. These robust relationships enable more innovative ways of working, including exploring opportunities for devolution as part of a County Deal. Suffolk is an ideal place to help Government demonstrate how levelling up can work in diverse geographies. Suffolk has a strong offer to make to Government and we would welcome early discussions with MHCLG Ministers to explore proposals for a County Deal ahead of the White Paper being published."
The Government wrote to councils in July 2021, setting out its ambition to make available to county areas the kind of devolved decision-making powers and public funding currently enjoyed by larger cities and urban areas. It is part of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda and will see a White Paper published in the coming months.
"Suffolk is known for working well together. Whether it’s partners joining forces during the Covid-19 pandemic, pooling public funding for the greater good or developing shared strategic priorities, collaboration is what we’re good at," said Councillor Suzie Morley, Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council and chair of the SPSL. "From inclusive economic growth and community safety to climate change and strong communities, we’re focused on collaborative actions that deliver the biggest and best additional benefits for our communities. We believe this makes Suffolk a strong contender to work with the Government as part of its Levelling Up agenda."
It is understood that Suffolk’s approach involving all councils is rare among other expressions of interest being submitted to Government, a point that has been welcomed by the county’s seven MPs.
In an accompanying letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for MHCLG, the MPs wrote:
“We are writing to wholeheartedly support the vision set out, collectively, by Suffolk County Council and all of Suffolk’s District and Borough Councils. We believe this unity of purpose behind taking the next step in devolution through a County Deal can not just help persuade you that we should be in the vanguard of the next stage of devolution, but also that Suffolk can use such a deal to deliver better services locally. This is not a recent or short-lived view. For many years local leaders in Suffolk at all levels have worked more closely together, and have put forward constructive propositions for further improvements. We hope to work with you on your forthcoming White Paper to show that strong local leadership and strengthened local governance can deliver better.”