Proposals for a mayor of Norfolk as part of the government’s levelling up plans have been slammed by a council opposition leader – who says any such move would see his and other councils “sidelined”.
Trevor Wainwright, who leads the Labour opposition on Conservative-run Great Yarmouth Borough Council, has – with his party colleagues – tabled a motion calling on the council to oppose the idea, which will be debated at a Tuesday meeting of the authority.
A white paper on the government’s levelling up plans, which seek to increase opportunity in overlooked parts of the country, explains that Norfolk will be invited to seek a county deal, with powers devolved down from Whitehall.
The most comprehensive set of powers will only be given to authorities who create a mayoralty.
Though the involvement of smaller councils in discussions about devolution is “encouraged”, the government has said deals will only ultimately be agreed with county councils.
South Norfolk Council’s Conservative leader John Fuller has said it would be “reckless” not to consider the idea, but Mr Wainwright was scathing of it.
“Our motion is really just to keep Yarmouth independent,” he said.
“We just feel this is the thin end of the wedge and ultimately it will mean the demise of the district and borough councils.”
The white paper insists however there will be no top-down reorganisation of local government.
“They’ve said that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t happen, or it wouldn’t happen,” said Mr Wainwright.
“They [a Norfolk mayor] would take on the responsibility of the police and crime commissioner, all the LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] money goes to them, local transport plans – a huge range of stuff.”
The councillor said he believed a Norfolk mayoralty would see councils like Great Yarmouth “sidelined”.
“At the end of the day – they should just give us the money,” he said.
“Just give us the funding and the responsibilities, to districts and boroughs, to determine their own futures.”
Asked whether it would not be a good thing for Norfolk to have a mayor exercising powers previously held in London, Mr Wainwright said: “Instead of talking to seven council leaders, they want to speak to one person… the directly-elected mayor – and we just feel that local democracy will be undermined.”