29/03/2016 Leave a comment
It’s not every day that you find your name on a betting slip but post the Chancellor’s announcement that East Anglia Devolution was a ‘goer’, Ladbrokes promptly opened a book on who would be Mayor and I was surprised that after Lord Andrew Lansley 4-1 and George Freeman MP 8-1, I was next as an early front runner at 10-1. I thought about placing a bet and thought nope not a chance, on the other hand worth a tenner just to get the betting slip and have it framed, as a memento of my time in Local Politics.
Now where to place the bet, only one place for me really and it’s in Newmarket in the ’cut’ between the high street and the Guineas shopping centre as that was my great great-grandfather’s betting shop, a Welshman by the name of Doc Griffiths not sure why the ‘Doc’; but he was reputedly the first off-course bookie in Newmarket. His shop is still there today, one side of my family are still the landlords and it happens to be a Ladbrokes! But as is the way of the world, it’s been busy, I never quite got there to place a bet until last Friday, of course by then my odds had dropped from 10:1 to 14:1 to 16:1 as others stormed ahead. So in I strolled, only to find they had closed the book! These bookies know a thing or two, so rather than who will be Mayor maybe they are telling us something.
The early signs are not encouraging, last week at a meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council the whole idea got a less than enthusiastic reception and it has made for strange alliances, last week at Norfolk County Council’s Performance and Operation committee a Labour Councillor spoke eloquently and scathingly about the funding lock of £30M over 30 years, which to be fair across three counties is not exactly a lot of money, albeit new money. And the likes of Sir Henry Bellingham has spoken out in the Commons against the Mayoral model as his believe that it will cost more money to run. For me Devolution is about Economic Growth, Public Sector reform including real health and social care integration, cost savings and far more local decision making. If a Mayor drives these things forward, then I think it’s a good thing.
But hey there is always a flip side, locally the Mayoral model has few friends as most think that it’s far too large a geography for one person to be able to represent successfully. If it’s just another tier of Government, costs more to run than it saves and whoever it is, is more interested in simply promoting the area or more worryingly, any one area, rather than working at the nitty gritty of Public Sector reform constantly building consensus and working with all councils, police, DWP and the NHS to make collective decisions around the issues we face, then it’s a mistake.
No doubt when a final document is produced if it builds on public and business engagement and it survives council debates in every single chamber then perhaps Ladbrokes will reopen its book and maybe I can place that bet, no doubt my odds will have considerably lengthened by then!