MPs urge minister to rethink East Anglian mayor idea

Communities secretary Greg Clark has been urged to rethink devolution plans for East Anglia

Communities secretary Greg Clark has been urged to rethink devolution plans for East Anglia

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A Norfolk MP has warned there will be an “almighty backlash” if the government presses ahead with plans for an elected mayor of East Anglia.

Last month, communities secretary Greg Clark insisted Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire would have to accept the structure in order to benefit from more than £1 billion of funding offered by the scheme.

But he was urged to think again in a meeting with a delegation of MPs from the region this afternoon.

The group included Richard Bacon, the MP for South Norfolk, North West Norfolk’s Sir Henry Bellingham and Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson.

He predicted authorities across the region would continue to resist if ministers maintain their position on the mayoral proposal.

He said: “If they press on, there will be an almighty backlash and the whole thing will come to a halt. We want the government to be pragmatic.”

Sir Henry, who also opposes the mayoral proposal, has called for council leaders, officials of the region’s local enterprise partnerships and police and crime commissioners to form a regional committee.

He believes they could then appoint a head figure to liaise with the government in a potential stepping stone towards the future introduction of an elected mayor, if voters approve the idea in a referendum.

Sir Henry, who said Mr Clark had agreed to consider the proposal, said the potential gains of devolution were “huge” and insisted he was not trying to be negative about the plans.

But he claimed there was no appetite in Norfolk for an elected mayor, pointing to comments made by politicians on all sides during a Norfolk County Council debate on the issue on Monday.

And he suggested that Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock, who was this week appointed to co-ordinate the devolution project would be shocked by the level of unease over it.

He urged the government to seek “evolution”, rather than revolution, adding: “I want to move forward when we have got consensus.”