Norfolk and Suffolk obtain adult education budget powers in devolution deal

Deals for the counties are also expected to include involvement in skills

Deals for the counties are also expected to include involvement in skills

Two more counties – Norfolk and Suffolk – will sign devolution deals today that will see local leaders take control over adult education budgets.

Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove is set to sign the deals in Norwich and Bury St Edmunds today, after chancellor Jeremy Hunt teased in the autumn statement that both counties were close to finalising arrangements.

The government said the deals combined were worth more than £1 billion over the next thirty years – £600 million for Norfolk and £480 million for Suffolk, and from May 2024 the two counties will get a directly elected leader.

It confirmed that both would get full control over their adult education budgets (AEBs) so they can shape provision to better meet local need, although a figure for how much those AEBs will be worth has not yet been given.

It is also expected to mean more responsibilities around skills, such as involvement in the local skills improvement plans (LSIPs).

According to the devolution deal documents, Norfolk is facing a “growing productivity and wage gap” with “Norfolk businesses citing skills as one of the biggest issues facing the economy”.

In Suffolk, qualifications levels were “relatively low” the devolution deal report said, with 54.5 per cent of 16-to-64 year-olds holding a level 3 or higher qualification compared to 61.5 per cent nationally.

The AEB will be fully devolved by the 2025/26 academic year for both authorities, subject to approval, the report said.

It added that both will be considered alongside other devolved authorities at the next spending review for the devolution of skills funding.

In Suffolk, qualifications levels were “relatively low” the devolution deal report said, with 54.5 per cent of 16-to-64 year-olds holding a level 3 or higher qualification compared to 61.5 per cent nationally.

Today’s announcements mean that 50 per cent of England will now be covered by devolution deals, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor said: “Striking a deal will help us to boost our economy through jobs, training, housing and development, to improve our transport network and to support our environment.”

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks added: “The deal recognises Suffolk’s ambitions, would put more powers in the hands of local people and bring more than half a billion pounds of investment into the county.”

Once signed, the deals are subject to local consultation, approval by those councils and parliamentary approval.

The news comes just one week after Cornwall’s county deal was announced, in which it has also been handed AEB and skills powers, and follows devolution deals already announced this year for York and North Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

Other county deals under negotiation currently are for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay; Durham; and Hull and East Yorkshire.

The government pledged that all parts of England will be able to negotiate a devolution deal by 2030.

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