Fenland Council leader insists ‘I have no control what spin our Conservative Government put on this’ as he denies deal done on devolution

Cllr Steve Tierney and Cllr John Clark.

Cllr Steve Tierney and Cllr John Clark. - Credit: Archant

Council leader John Clark has insisted the Chancellor’s devolution proposal– that would include an elected mayor for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk- is not a foregone conclusion.

Responding to criticism of reports suggesting all bar Cambridge City Council is supportive of it, he told councillors: “I have no control what spin our Conservative Government put on this but the final decision will be made by members at full council in May.”

Cabinet member Will Sutton also told Conservative colleagues the council’s stance on devolution is yet to be agreed.

However in a series of emails last night and today at least one Conservative councillor has questioned whether it is worth Fenland Council even debating the issue.

Councillor Steve Tierney told Cllr Clark that members had been assured that the only agreement thus far was for further discussion.

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“Since then we’ve had a BBC East report suggesting it was a done deal,” he wrote.

“I fully accept that the BBC and the Government could be jumping the gun a little when they declare that ‘all councils except Cambridge’ have agreed to the deal and I know our own FDC press release was more careful in its wording.

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“But why have we not seen any rebuttal of the claims that the deal is done? Constituents all now believe we’ve signed the deal because of the coverage. Telling them ‘the Government and the BBC have got it wrong’ isn’t taken very seriously.

“So could you please confirm that we do still have a decision to make here? That if we say ‘no’ then that will mean something?”

The county council faces an early debate on the issue next week when a motion from Lib Dem Lucy Nethsingha will test the waters.

She wants the council to “formally declare and record its opposition to the proposal for a mayor”. She believes such a proposal “would reduce the influence of local people on planning for their own areas”.

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