West Suffolk business get chance to hear about devolution deal
Over 50 businesspeople from across west Suffolk seized the chance to find out more about the Suffolk and Norfolk devolution deal at a consultation meeting held at West Suffolk College last Friday (July 29th).
Organised by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), businesses heard about the plans to take away powers – including infrastructure and housing strategy - from Whitehall and give them to more local decision-makers in the form of a mayor and a combined authority.
The proposed deal, which could last for as long as 30 years, could mean control of more than £750m of funding to improve Norfolk and Suffolk, enable the creation of 95,000 jobs by 2026, deliver around 200,000 homes over the lifetime of the deal and provide the skills that employees and businesses want.
Matt Moss, chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Bury St. Edmunds, was one of the speakers and welcomed the proposals whilst emphasising the need for businesses to be at the very heart in shaping the policies and approaches of the new devolved structures.
“These proposals are a gigantic step forward with their focus on housing and infrastructure growth. They are right in themselves and, I believe, as a basis upon which our county can – and should - receive further devolved powers and responsibilities.
“The promised investment in infrastructure and houses will mean that the size of our economy will be boosted from the current £29bn to £43bn by 2020. That is too good a prospect not to grasp.
“I look forward to us shaping both the specifications for the role of elected mayor and for the combined authority. We need the focus of both functions to be upon creating the conditions that facilitate and do not hinder our dynamic and entrepreneurial businesses as they look to grow, create jobs and create wealth for all.”
Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP said “the message from businesses across Suffolk and Norfolk is loud and clear – we want a direct voice and influence in the future of the region and we are ready to step up to the plate to help deliver growth, jobs and new investment. I was delighted with the level of support for the Devolution Agreement, but not surprised. The business community recognises the massive opportunity we have been handed to bring even greater prosperity, more funding and release even more potential from Suffolk and Norfolk. Devolution can bring a new relationship with Government putting the East on the fast track for further investment and more deals, making our region one of the best places in the world to live, work and learn.”
A panel comprising Matt Moss, Mark Pendlington, Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia LEP and Ian Gallin, chief executive of Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils answered questions from the floor. These ranged from responsibilities of the new devolved structure, guarantees as to how long the funding will last and the role of the Mayor as the first among equals on the board of the Combined Authority.
Dozens of the businesses present signed up to a letter pledging their support for Suffolk and Norfolk’s devolution deal.
Businesses wishing to find out more and contribute their questions and comments about the devolution deal can do so by going to: https://www.eastangliadevo.co.uk/consultation