24 May 2016
Green councillors across the East of England have rejected the government’s plan for a new East Anglian Combined Authority, saying it has major flaws which must be addressed before it can receive their support.
The devolution agreement was published by the Treasury in March and has been signed by 22 of the 23 council leaders in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Under the proposals certain powers from Whitehall would be devolved to an elected mayor who would be answerable to a cabinet made up of nominees from 23 local councils across East Anglia. The cabinet would be able to reject any of the mayor's strategies or spending plans, but only by a two thirds majority.
However, Green councillors have rejected the government’s proposal as lacking in accountability to local people. Instead, they are insisting that the mayor’s actions must be overseen by a combined authority that is fully elected using proportional representation so that the views of communities are properly represented.
Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and Independent Group on Suffolk County Council, says: “Decentralisation of power is a basic tenet of Green philosophy, and meaningful devolution would be widely welcomed by Green Party members and supporters. But the proposed agreement lacks the legitimacy of public endorsement. Improved democratic engagement is essential if we are to build a stronger, more inclusive, civil society.
“As well as a democratically elected Combined Authority we are also demanding a revised East Anglian devolution agreement which should be put to a public referendum. A referendum could reasonably be held in May 2017, with elections for the Combined Authority taking place in May 2018.”
As part of a revised agreement on devolution Greens are also asking for:
Mark is also keen to stress how the Green Party is alone in recognising that the challenges of climate change must be central to any devolution proposal. “The primary objective of an East Anglian Combined Authority must be to address the worst consequences of climate change. We need to ensure that Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire are resilient to the effects of climate change that are already locked in, and that we ameliorate the long-term effects as much as we can by steadily reducing the region’s carbon footprint.
“East Anglia is rich in wildlife and beautiful natural heritage treasures. Our region is one of the last remaining outposts of our green and pleasant land in a highly over-developed south-eastern corner of the UK. Protecting the natural heritage and environment of the East of England must be central to meaningful devolution in East Anglia.”