East Anglia devolution deal could be just days away with talks over geography and elected mayor ongoing

A deal to create a wider East Anglia authority with an elected mayor could be just a few days away.

Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 12:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 1:28 pm
Andy Wood

Andy Wood, who is leading the talks with the government on behalf of council leaders, hopes to overcome concerns over the geography of the devolved authority which is proposed for Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The role of an elected mayor, who would lead the authority, is also up for debate.

Mr Wood, chief executive of brewers Adnams, wants to have a broad deal in place before the government goes into purdah on Friday for the European Union referendum.

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He said: “There are some areas of concern which are the geography and elected mayor and we are working through those constructively.

“We are edging closer and closer to a deal every day.

“I think we are relatively close but that’s with my optimistic hat on.”

Peterborough City Council has already agreed to open talks regarding a combined authority with just Cambridgeshire, rather than the whole of the region.

On the issue of geography Mr Wood said: “It is something we are talking about. I can’t be drawn on that any further at the moment.”

Regarding an elected mayor, which has become a focal point for opposition to the proposals, he added: “As things stand at the moment, an elected mayor is what government wants to see. That’s part of a quid pro quo for devolution.

“The important thing to think about is not the elected mayor, but that leaders can put governance around that individual and that he or she can be first before equals.

“In no way does it usurp the identities of districts and counties.”

The original devolution deal offered by the government back in March would see £30 million a year for the next 30 years spread across the authorities, with a further £175 million to boost housing.

Mr Wood said councils will vote on the final proposals at the end of June and elections could take place next May for East Anglia’s first ever elected mayor.