Historic half a billion pound devolution deal hands Suffolk regeneration and skills powers to level up
• Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is in Bury St Edmunds today to sign historic Suffolk devolution deal
• Proposed deal gives Suffolk County Council a directly elected leader and greater control over skills delivery, building, and transport budgets
• Deal signing sees 50% of England now covered by a directly elected leader – showing important progress since the Levelling Up White Paper
A landmark devolution deal, which puts money and power over building, regeneration and skills into the hands of leaders in Suffolk will be signed today by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.
Suffolk will be devolved power over their Adult Education budget, so they can shape provision in a way that best suits the needs of the local community and will receive immediate support to build new affordable homes on brownfield sites, as well as more capital funding to improve energy efficiency in houses.
The deal will also see Suffolk County Council handed control over a £480 million investment fund – this will be guaranteed for the next thirty years. This will enable the county to drive growth and plan for the long-term with certainty as it looks to level up and unlock its full economic potential.
Suffolk will also get a directly elected leader of the council. This not only provides a single person who is accountable to the people of Suffolk but gives the county a local champion who can attract investment and be a stronger voice in discussions with central government.
The Levelling Up Secretary will today attend a ceremony in Bury St Edmunds with Cllr Matthew Hicks to officially sign the deal. Michael Gove will also visit Norfolk to sign a devolution agreement with Norfolk County Council, which will transfer further money and power out of Whitehall. The deals follow Cornwall Council who just last week signed their own devolution deal with the government, unlocking powers and long-term funding of £360 million.
With three new devolution deals signed in the last seven days, 50% of England will now be covered by a devolution deal and reaffirms the government’s commitment in the Levelling Up White Paper to offer a devolution deal to any area that wants one by 2030.
The deal also sets out the government’s plans to devolve more power to Suffolk County Council through:
• Investment: It will bring decades of funding worth £480 million to improve the lives of Suffolk’s residents and spend on their local priorities.
• Housing: The deal will provide £5.8 million to regenerate brownfield land into beautiful, affordable homes and drive economic growth across the area; Suffolk will also receive greater compulsory purchase powers.
• Education: The agreement devolves the Adult Education Budget so they can shape provision in a way that best suits the needs of residents and the local Suffolk economy.
• Transport: An integrated transport settlement starting in 2024/25, to support the area to improve key transport infrastructure priorities.
• The Environment: The new deal will help Suffolk deliver on its ambitions to be the country’s greenest county with £3 million to improve energy efficiency in homes.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said:
“I said we would give devolution deals to all that wanted them and today we are keeping that promise by putting power into the hands of the people who know best what Suffolk needs so they can level up the county and unleash its full economic potential.
“It is now people in places like Ipswich, Felixstowe and Newmarket who will have a greater say on how their areas are run. Because we know important decisions are best taken by those who know their areas inside out, not by those many miles away in Whitehall.
“This new deal will empower leaders in Suffolk to shape policies and direct spending to address issues that are unique to them, and I will commit to working with them even further to help drive through that change.”
Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said:
“This devolution deal is the first of its kind between the Government and a county council, making it a truly historic moment for Suffolk. The deal recognises Suffolk’s ambitions, would put more powers in the hands of local people and bring more than half a billion pounds of investment into the county.
“On the table are greater decision-making powers around transport, infrastructure, skills and more resources to help us achieve our net zero ambitions. Ultimately, this significant additional investment will improve the lives and outcomes of Suffolk’s residents.
“Devolution is a journey, not a one-off event. This deal for Suffolk is the first step towards an exciting future for our great county.”
Cllr Suzie Morley, Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council and Chair of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders Group, said:
"This is an exciting deal for Suffolk, bringing more decision-making powers to the county and decades of investment.
"Suffolk's public sector leaders have shown ambition and determination to make this happen, and will continue to work together to do the very best for residents and businesses.”
These deals are just the first steps in transferring power away from Whitehall into areas that want them. The East Anglian agreements mean that six of 13 places invited to negotiate devolution deals in the Levelling Up White Paper have now signed agreements with government. Suffolk and Norfolk join Cornwall – who signed their own deal just last week - York and North Yorkshire, and the East Midlands who have already signed devolution deals this year - these deals equate to another five million being covered by a devolution deal in 2022 alone.
The deal is now subject to local consultation, a council resolution to change their governance model so that electors directly elect the council leader, and elements, such as the transfer of new powers, require parliamentary approval to secondary legislation. The deal envisages the election of a directly elected leader in May 2024. Subject to the passing of the relevant measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Suffolk and Norfolk would call the directly elected person the “elected leader” of the County Council.