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North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham is urging residents to fight devolution proposals, claiming the “crazy scheme” could lead to a civil war between councils.

The devolution deal would see Norfolk and Suffolk join to create a combined authority with a single elected mayor.

West Norfolk Council voted to back the proposals last month, but a number of authorities, including Breckland, have rejected the plan.

Supporters say the new system could attract £25m extra government funding a year for the next 30 years and give councillors greater decision-making powers in areas such as housing and infrastructure.

But, in a joint letter with Lord Greville Howard of Castle Rising, Sir Henry said he was “deeply suspicious” of government claims it was new money, warning it could be “one big con trick”.

Norfolk County Council’s public consultation on the proposals finished last Friday, but Sir Henry and Lord Howard, a West Norfolk borough councillor, said “all was not lost”.

The county council is due to vote again in October and the final decision rests with the secretary of state, who will look for evidence of local involvement before signing-off the deal in the autumn.

Sir Henry and Lord Howard are calling on residents to share their views via their MPs and councillors to send a clear message.

“Norwich City Council, Yarmouth Council, North Norfolk Council and Breckland Council have already voted very strongly to reject these ill-thought-out proposals,” the letter says.

“Given they represent the majority of Norfolk’s population, it seems these plans are already half dead in the water.

“Now is our chance to make sure ministers are left in no doubt at all about public opinion.”

Their letter suggests an elected mayor would undermine the sovereignty of council leaders and MPs, while creating an unnecessary and expensive “fifth tier” of bureaucracy.

“By working alongside our council leaders, the nine Norfolk MPs have achieved a substantial amount for the county,” the letter says.

“What we do not want is an elected metro mayor undermining this co-operation, as well as barging into this constituency and trying to tell us what to do.”

Plans to make Norfolk a single, unitary authority were announced nine years ago and scrapped after a fierce battle.

Sir Henry previously warned a new combined authority could reignite the row.

The letter continues: “Just when we need borough councillors and county councillors working together, they will end up fighting a civil war.

“It would be an absolute disaster if our successful borough council ended up being abolished, not least because Norfolk is too big to have one unitary council in charge.”

Sir Henry argues devolution could also damage the West’s vital links to the north with south Lincolnshire, to the west along the A47 and towards the A10 to Ely and Cambridge.

“These have always been the links that matter most to business rather than tie ups with organisations and businesses in Suffolk.  Our very grave concern is that a new combined authority would put all of this at risk,” the letter states.

Sir Henry and Lord Howard said it was “an affront to democracy and an utter disgrace” that residents living under councils which rejected the plans will not be able to vote in the mayoral elections if devolution goes ahead.

“This makes us more determined than ever to use all the influence at our disposal to completely kill off this crazy scheme,” the letter concludes.

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