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Norfolk-Suffolk devolution plan to go on despite votes against, government says

The government has insisted it will persist with devolution proposals for Norfolk and Suffolk despite three district councils rejecting them.

North Norfolk District Council became the latest to reject a new combined authority for the two counties during a meeting last night.

That followed similar votes by the Breckland and Norwich City councils on Tuesday, which prompted speculation about the future of the entire project.

But that claim has been dismissed by officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In a statement issued a short time ago, they said: “We are determined to ensure power and funding is devolved from Whitehall to local people, so that no corner of the country is left behind.

“This is a bottom up process and if any local authority in the end decides it no longer wants to be part of it then we will continue to work with those local partners who do, in order to make this historic opportunity a reality.”

But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, a consistent critic of the plan for a directly elected mayor as part of the devolution settlement, claimed the project was “dead in the water” because of the lack of unanimous support among councils and the continuing instability within the government.

He said he was “delighted” by the votes against it and urged the councils who have still to vote on it, including West Norfolk and Great Yarmouth who meet tonight, to reject them as well.

He also maintains that pressure can be exerted to secure a better deal for the region.

He said: “This is not an opportunity to throw out devolution but to keep Andy Wood (who led negotiations with the government) in place.”

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