Greens are the only party challenging devolution

3 May 2016

Green councillors on Norfolk County Council have slammed Labour's approach to devolution, following Conservative minister James Wharton's assertion that a deal has "already been agreed". [1]

Labour leader of the council George Nobbs was a strong supporter of the plans until recently, declaring himself "personally delighted" with Chancellor George Osborne's announcement of the draft agreement in his budget speech in March. [2] Labour and Conservative county councillors voted to push forward with devolution plans at a meeting earlier this month, with only Greens and three others against.

However, Cllr Nobbs changed his tune earlier this month when he finally declared the process to be "a shambles".

Green councillor Andrew Boswell said: "George Nobbs and other council leaders in the region have been dazzled by the government's promises of funding, and have totally failed to challenge the governance structure being imposed by the Government – which is disastrous for democracy and communities. At Council, Mr Nobbs appeared to have little grasp of the detail: he has shown himself to be utterly in thrall to Tory ministers rather than fighting for the best deal for Norfolk. I have no confidence in him leading on the next stages of negotiating.

"The Greens have been the only party to consistently oppose this ill-conceived, top-down proposal, which will destroy local government and do nothing to benefit the people of Norfolk."

Fellow Green councillor Adrian Dearnley added: "We repeatedly warned George Nobbs and the council last year that the so-called devolution deal was a runaway train which would be difficult to stop. Yet he and other council leaders, with almost no questions asked, signed a deal that we are now being told is non-negotiable."

The Greens' opposition to the devolution proposals is based on several factors, including the undemocratic nature of the deal and the process, and the focus on business growth rather than quality of life, social justice and tackling climate change.

Richard Bearman, who is leader of the county council's Green group, commented: "The process has been dictated by government ministers – but our objection is also to the content of the agreement. There is no mention at all of climate change, the biggest issue facing us this century. The focus is on road-building and other high-carbon-emitting infrastructure projects, with no plans for how we might build more resilient and sustainable communities.

"We want to see real localism. Instead, this government is imposing a deal, and trying to set regions up in competition with one another, playing on councils' fear of losing even more resources.

"Without proper funding, this deal is just devolution of blame for austerity. It baffles me how so many councils, including many Labour councils around the country, have simply gone along with it unquestioningly."




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