More Power to the East: The devolution debate

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Image caption Will more power be devolved to the east?

Devolution and the East of England do not necessarily feel like a natural fit.

We are a disparate region of shire councils and market towns, small cities and countryside.

In fact, here in the East, most of us don't live in a city at all, yet that's the way the government is keen to devolve power - to city regions.

The City Growth Commission says that 61% of growth is generated by city regions and of its 15 metro areas - none of which lie in the eastern counties - employment ranges from 63% to 75.7%.

Well, here in the East, the employment rate is the highest in the country at 76.3%.

The East of England has the highest rate of business research and development expenditure of any English region of the UK, with a 20% share of the total UK amount.

Image caption The east region receives the third lowest spending on transport per person in the country

We put more into the Treasury's coffers than anywhere outside of London and the South East, but we get less back than we put in.

And yet this region receives the third lowest spending on transport per person in the country. We get £43 a head compared to £311 for the East Midlands and £2,731 per person in London.

As well as the strain on our roads and trains, for people living in many of our rural areas slow broadband speeds are a daily frustration.

Add all that to our many mobile phone black spots and you might wonder if we are getting a raw deal.

"In the national infrastructure plan £32bn is earmarked for transport throughout the country," says Professor Paul Whiteley, who runs the British Electoral Survey at the University of Essex.

"Two thirds of that goes to London. We get less than 1% of it in the region.

"There's huge disparities in the way resources are distributed because of the political centralisation of London. That's why we need devolution."

Growing population

George Nobbs, the Labour leader of Norfolk County Council agrees: "The BBC East area's population (which includes Northamptonshire) is bigger than that of Scotland. What do we get for it?

"We can all work together regardless of our political complexion because we all really want the same thing."

Local power in the East


of people living in the region supported the idea of giving local areas more decision making powers on issues such as tax, education and policing

  • 85% said Britain is better off for having a strong capital city

  • 54% of those polled in the East agreed too much of England's resources are spent on London

Population projections indicate that the number of people in the East of England will reach 6.8 million by 2026 - a 20% increase over 20 years.

It matches the largest projected increase of any other region, 4% more than the national average.

Although we are likely to grow more than virtually anywhere else, will we get a bigger slice of the cake? Will neighbouring regions with metro cities win out? Will money from here keep flowing to the chancellor?

Whatever the arguments are over the shape of devolution in the East is there a chance that without it we could be left behind?

More Power to the East? A BBC Look East special, Wednesday at 22:35 GMT on BBC One (East).

Join the debate on Twitter at #eastwhatnext

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