Paul Stainton: Alls Wells that ends Wells?
Rome wasn't built in a day but it appears that the new powerhouse of the East '“ Norcambwhich, Ipsfolkbridge, Folkswichshire, or whatever we are going to call it - has been cobbled together in about a month.
It’s the government’s latest big idea, to devolve money and some power, back to the regions, by creating areas that can supposedly work together under an elected Mayor.
In our case, it’s an unholy Eastern Union of Norfolk, Suffolk and greater Cambridgeshire, all forced together into some sort of weird wedlock, a marriage of convenience, arranged by a government offering only the smallest of dowries as an inducement.
The pressure exerted has forced 22 of the councils in the East to sign up, with only Cambridge city council brave enough to reject the proposal from Generous George and Diamond Dave.
Now I know what you are thinking. Why would John Holditch, the leader of Peterborough city council, sign up for something that every single business brain in the county thinks is the wrong deal for this city and the people that live in it?
Why has there been no debate, no discussion and no detail? The answer is, I don’t know, because at the time of writing this piece nobody was answering any of those pertinent questions.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Norfolk, as does most of this city, which decamps to Peterborough-on-sea (Hunstanton) at regular intervals during the summer months for its regular fix of fish and chips and burnt bellies.
Wells, Brancaster and Holkam are beautiful too, but sleepy Norfolk, with its tractor laden roads and shellfish shops, is hardly the partner Peterborough requires to build a thriving, dynamic future, unless that future involves crabs.
Suffolk too, with its colourful houses and excellent breweries, has much to admire, but just one mention of the word Ipswich and people start running for the Harwich ferry.
Theses counties are too vast, too far away from civilization and have virtually nothing in common with Peterborough or the wider county for that matter.
This city was treated as the runt of the litter when we were part of Cambridgeshire and that’s one of the reasons that we became a unitary authority in the first place. Can you imagine how we might fare in a future where edicts are laid down from a big name Mayor, situated in Norwich?
I am a big fan of Delia’s upside down cake but what does she know of the litter hotspots of Peterborough or the social care issues in Welland?
Norfolk’s favourite adopted son, comedian Roy Walker, might be a better bet, with his affable Irish charm and laid back wit. But even he would struggle to understand the complexities of our city – he’s good, but he’s not right.
Maybe our council would be better off standing firm and instead building a partnership with Greater Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire?
Better still perhaps we could encourage the government to give the extra money and devolved powers to the councils and unitary authorities that are already in place. That way we could avoid yet another layer of government that we will ultimately have to pay for.
I know it’s a radical thought and it doesn’t involve a payday for ex-ministers, former quango heads or minor celebs, but as Mr Walker might say himself – “You just have to say what you see.”