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Put brakes on regional devolution bid, dailies tell ministers

Nigel PickoverTwo regional dailies have called on the government to “put the brakes” on a devolution bid for the region they serve.

The Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times have joined forces to call for a “more measured approach” to possible devolution in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The Norwich-based Daily Press and Ipswich-based Daily Times, both owned by Archant, have submitted a string of questions to the government and local authorities.

They want to know why the process has to be so “rushed”, how a combined Norfolk and Suffolk authority would be accountable to the public and if an elected mayor would be in charge.

Questions have also been asked on how much the devolution process has cost the taxpayer now and in the future, and whether consideration has been given to other options such as unitary authorities being founded has been put forward.

The questions have also been put to New Anglia Local Enterprise, an economic partnership which has a key role in ongoing talks over the devolution process.

Nigel Pickover, pictured above left, editor of the EDP, said: “This is a vitally important debate and yet it is being rushed through, seemingly to suit the government.

“What a ridiculous irony, that a debate over taking powers away from Whitehall should be taking place with such pressure from above. What is needed is a careful, measured and transparent debate, so everyone in our region is clear on what the pros and cons of devolution would be.”

Terry Hunt, editor of the EADT, added: “I’ve had meetings with a number of local politicians about the issue of devolution and I’ve asked them all the same question – what will it mean for the people of Suffolk.

“None of them have been able to give me a clear answer. I don’t believe this is because they’re being evasive – it’s because they genuinely don’t know the answer.

“Yet despite the uncertainty and lack of clarity the government is expecting what could be monumental change to be pushed through at breakneck speed.

“What we’re saying is that no major decisions should be taken until the whole picture is much clearer.”

Earlier this month four regional dailies in the North-West of England – the Bolton News, Manchester Evening News, Oldham Evening Chronicle and Wigan Evening Post – launched a joint campaign demanding a fairer devolution deal for their region.

Their ‘Fair Devo’ campaign has now won the backing of Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, runner up in the recent Labour leadership contest.

He said: “I absolutely back the Fair Deal Devo campaign. We have heard a lot of talk from George Osborne but the time has come for him to put his money where his mouth is.

“The Tories have raised expectations and now they have got to deliver on them — my job will be to relentlessly hold them to account on that. If they don’t deliver — we will expose that.”

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  • October 19, 2015 at 7:35 am

    It’s about time the East Anglian press woke up to this burning issue. In the Wetherspoons of Wroxham and Needham Market they talk of little else.
    Wait a minute…..might it mean that “devolution” could radically reduce the advertising spend the two county councils currently lob at their supportive regional dailies? Just wondered.

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