Norfolk’s four city councils have threatened lawsuits against county councils over their approach to delegation, alleging a lack of consultation.
South Norfolk, Broadland, Breckland and North Norfolk District Councils have sent “pre-action letters” to Conservative County Council Speaker Andrew Proctor ahead of possible judicial review challenges to the process.
South Norfolk, Broadland and Breckland are district councils run by the Conservative Party, while North Norfolk is run by the Liberal Democrats.
In December, the government approved a delegation of power giving the parliaments of Norfolk and Suffolk power over spending.
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Under this plan, the county council will have greater control over housing, skills, and regeneration. It will also elect a leader of the authority, rather than a mayor as in previous devolutions.
On 8 December 2022, the Secretary of State for Level Up, Housing and Communities is ‘considering’ a county agreement with Norfolk that would see the government benefit from £600 million in new government investment over 30 years announced.
North Norfolk District Council Leader Tim Adams said:
“There are some constitutional issues about how they tried to force this without the consent of the entire council.”
He noted that his district council has “some concerns” about the proposed deal. It makes a real difference.”
County Council leader Cllr Andrew Proctor, who signed the master’s agreement with the government last month, said: Opportunities for those who live and work in Norfolk.
“We moved decisions and funds previously controlled in Westminster to Norfolk, and for Norfolk, build our strengths and meet challenges to manage our own destiny and shape our future. It is a catalyst for change to address, provide infrastructure and grow the economy.
“Norfolk as a rural county has been left behind for far too long, so decentralization is a prize and something worth fighting for.”
After a full two-hour council debate on January 17, the Norfolk County Council cabinet agreed to proceed with the deal at its afternoon meeting. The debate did not include voting.
Cllr Proctor asked his colleagues to “stop trying to find ways to prevent delegation.” At the meeting, he said:
Norfolk County Council announced that a six-week public consultation on the transaction will begin on February 6. In December, the entire council will decide whether to support changes to elected leaders. If approved, elections will take place in May 2024.