Devolution (East Anglia) – open letter from Orwell Ahead

Dr Andy Wood, Chief Executive, Adnams plc, 

27th May 2016 

Dear Dr Wood, 

Devolution (East Anglia) – open letter from Orwell Ahead

We are writing to you, as lead negotiator for the Eastern region with the Government on devolution, on behalf of our committee and supporters of Orwell Ahead.  We understand that the deal that will go to councils across the region in late June is to be agreed very shortly, and here we present the views of our membership.

Our non-partisan group has been formed with the aim of highlighting the interdependence and economic importance of the Greater Ipswich area. This is the largest and most important economic area in Suffolk and Norfolk, creating £8bn GVA per annum. It provides employment for 260,000, supporting 20,000 businesses, and it is home to a third of a million people, producing nearly two thirds of Suffolk’s output.

An area of such importance deserves to be permanently backed with proportionate political and economic representation; to have influence and direction, a single voice and focus, plus a clear list of infrastructure and growth objectives with the means to achieve them.

Devolution for East Anglia should represent a great opportunity for our area, but there is also a risk that it will only marginalise Greater Ipswich unless certain criteria are identified that enable it to achieve its full potential. The most important of these criteria is for a guarantee of political and decision-making parity for (a) Ipswich with Norwich and (b) Suffolk with Norfolk under any devolution deal. If the eventual deal includes Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough then that parity needs to be extended to also include their two cities.

We have ten key objectives for the Greater Ipswich economic zone, falling into two categories:

Economic and infrastructure representation: To ensure that Greater Ipswich and the Orwell Corridor economic zone has permanent, proportionate and high quality representation on the New Anglia LEP board and its eventual successor following devolution.

Our group was the first to identify and highlight that Greater Ipswich (Orwell Peninsula) had just 1 board member (from 15) located in our economic zone. There were 7 board members located around, or associated to Norwich. At the last election, Greater Norwich secured a £400m investment with a Northern bypass, A11 and A47 upgrades. Ipswich and Felixstowe (with the UK’s premier container port) received £0 for the A14 & A12 in South East Suffolk, and there was not even a feasibility study for a desperately needed Ipswich Orbital (a full Northern Bypass).

We are seeking:

  1. After our lobbying, our economic area now has 4 LEP New Anglia Board members. We believe that that our LEP Board representation should never again fall below 30%, or below our zone’s percentage of GVA for Norfolk & Suffolk.
  2. There should be a permanent New Anglia LEP board position for the Felixstowe Port Users Association or the Port of Felixstowe. It is essential that the Felixstowe Port community is always represented when infrastructure is at stake.
  3. We are urgently calling for a business and academic led member group dedicated to the successful growth of Greater Ipswich & Orwell. Chris Starkie of “Shaping Norfolk’s Future” was able to brilliantly deliver a clear list of objectives upon becoming New Anglia LEP’s Managing Director. Jeremy Newsum and Jane Paterson-Todd have galvanised Cambridge Ahead, providing direction and a single powerful voice for Greater Cambridge. Why should Greater Ipswich have anything less? This should be an absolute priority for the New Anglia LEP. 
  4. We seek a full and fair feasibility study and New Anglia LEP support for the Greater Ipswich Orbital (Northern Bypass).

Local and Regional Government Representation: To ensure that Greater Ipswich and the Orwell corridor is receiving fair, proportionate and accountable representation at all levels of local & regional government. We are seeking:

  1. As part of any Devolution settlement, Ipswich must have permanent and proportionate representation at SCC cabinet (or Committee) level. This should never fall below 33% for Greater Ipswich, recognising Ipswich’s unique county-borough contribution to SCC and the population scope dependent upon Suffolk’s regional centre.
  2. Ipswich also needs a fairer deal at District level. If SCDC and Waveney are to merge to form a super-district then any arrangement must include a full review of district boundaries and a fair settlement with Ipswich Borough. Ipswich’s 1835 borough boundary mean that Suffolk’s regional centre is populated with a high proportion of older and lower yielding A&B community charge properties. The town’s success and growth has produced lucrative suburbs, retail and business zones BUT across its outdated boundaries. It is grossly unfair that SCDC & Waveney will simply walk off with the fruits and benefits of Ipswich growth. Adastral Park and the Port of Felixstowe are dependent on Greater Ipswich’s labour force and infrastructure, so they must remain with Ipswich to ensure joined ambition, direction and focus. The three interdependent economic hubs must have joined up thinking and be able to use their joint leverage. This will simply not happen if governance is 40 miles away in Lowestoft.
  3. Ipswich Borough Council is already failing to meet its housing targets, compounded by the limitations of its 1835 settlement boundary. Between the years of 2011-2021, the Borough’s ‘Housing Supply Position Statement’, submitted as evidence for its local plan, estimates this shortfall will reach over 3,000 new homes. The Borough has made and continues to make the best use of its limited land, achieving a significant number of homes on brownfield sites. However, it is in desperate need of further strategic sites. This can only be achieved by a radical re-think of district boundaries. Meanwhile, Suffolk Coastal District Council is proposing to put 51% of its housing numbers required in its Local Plan within their ‘Eastern Ipswich Plan Area’, Felixstowe, Walton and the Trimley Villages. This is an area which directly, and heavily, impacts on the Greater Ipswich and Orwell district without contributing properly towards the services and infrastructure it needs. Indeed, this housing will serve the interdependent economic area from Felixstowe through to Ipswich and it is right that should be managed under a single district. Orwell Ahead is pro-growth and believes that with a re-think of district boundaries, this area could deliver ambitious economic growth along with a significant increase in housing numbers, but with the ability to do this in a truly sustainable and comprehensive way, able to plan and deliver the infrastructure improvements that are required to facilitate this growth. The House Builders Federation is the well-respected and leading voice of residential development in the UK, and recently commented on the relationship between IBC, SCDC, Babergh and MSDC, ‘…are not convinced that relying on future cooperation…will prove effective’ and ‘no convincing evidence…that the duty to cooperate has been effective’. Suffolk and the Orwell District need the district boundaries reviewing immediately in order to be able to deliver an ambitious house building programme.
  4. We believe that the location of the new Devolved Authority for Suffolk & Norfolk should Be at Ipswich. We have seen how the location of the New Anglia LEP initially skewed incoming investment, and that the administrational jobs benefitted the Greater Norwich area. We believe that it is our turn, and only fair that Suffolk’s regional centre receives this mantle.
  5. Regardless of Anglian Devolution we demand that Ipswich has political and decision making parity with Norwich, Cambridge and Peterborough. You simply cannot have a strong East Anglia without a strong Ipswich.
  6. Finally, we call for a full reform of local government. Devolution Anglia will mean a convergence of 3 County Councils and 21 District/City/Borough Leaders; 2 LEP boards, 3 Police Crime Commissioners; 12 CCG Health Areas; and around 240 County and 1100 district councillors. With or without an elected Mayor it is simply unworkable, and will only serve to magnify the democratic deficit. We strongly suggest to do it efficiently, fairly and proportionately and promoting democracy for all within East Anglia, as ten equally balanced and represented unitary councils (vis-à-vis Greater Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge & Peterborough), plus Suffolk East & West, Cambridge North & South, and Norfolk North & South. This would ensure greater accountability, focus and direction for our areas. We also believe that a proposal for East Suffolk (with Lowestoft as administrational HQ), West Suffolk (with Bury St Edmunds as administrational HQ) and Greater Ipswich (with Ipswich as administrational HQ) would spread both political control and accountability more fairly for all in Suffolk, Norfolk & Cambs.

We hope that you will receive this letter in the spirit in which it is sent, and clear desire to ensure that Greater Ipswich receives a fair deal not only from Devolution, but at all levels of local and regional government, and from the New Anglia LEP. Our aims are not radical or revolutionary, but common sense and in the best interest of our area and county.

 

Yours sincerely

www.OrwellAhead.co.uk

On behalf of the Orwell Ahead Steering Committee