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Claire Ward: East Midlands Mayor to stand down as hospital chair

New Mayor of the East Midlands Claire Ward says arrangements for her to step down as the chair of a hospital trust will be taking place “over the next month”.

Claire Ward

Labour candidate Claire Ward won the election to become the region’s first-ever mayor on Friday, May 3, when she surpassed her closest rival, the Conservative Party’s Cllr Ben Bradley, by 50,000 votes.

She visited Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire on Tuesday, May 7, on her first day in office.

Mayoral Declaration

Here she signed the mayoral declaration before discussing her plans over the coming weeks and months.

One of the first orders of business is stepping down from existing positions.

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Ms Ward is the chairwoman of Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the King’s Mill, Mansfield Community and Newark hospitals, but she says that she will be leaving the role over the coming month.

Her new salary is still yet to be confirmed.

First few weeks of meetings

The first few weeks will consist of meetings with regional partners and organisations, and getting to know a small team of staff who will be working out of her Chesterfield-based office.

Her new elected role comes as a condition to a devolution deal, signed by Derbyshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council back in November 2022.

The deal will provide the region with £1.14bn over the next 30 years, while devolved powers from Westminster will help the newly-elected mayor better decide what happens with transport, housing, skills, education, the economy and net-zero strategy.

‘Massive challenges’

“There is a huge amount of work to do and it is a massive region. In fact, the East Midlands region geographically is five times the size of the West Midlands region,” she said.

“As anybody who gets out and about in the region will know driving from one end to the other can take you two to three hours, and that is just in a car, let alone trying to do it on public transport.

“Those are some of the things we are going to be looking at how we are going to plan, what is going to be our strategy right across the region.

“The first few days, the first few weeks, and probably the first few months is going to be building those partnerships and meeting those people who can help to make the changes I want to make.”

The election

The overall turnout for last Thursday’s mayoral election was 27.6 per cent. The result was declared after a count the following day. One candidate, Reform’s Alan Graves, had been seeking election so he could get rid of the mayoral role.

‘Massively underfunded’

In a message to those who continue to doubt the effectiveness of a new layer of local government and the mayoral position, Ms Ward added: “If you look across the rest of the country where they have had regional mayors for a lot longer than we have, they have already shown their value because they have brought more money into their region, and they have made a difference and they have been able to collaborate across different partnerships.

“We have been massively underfunded and under-invested in as a region, and it is really important we take those new powers and that funding from Westminster, we bring it in to this region and we decide our own priorities.

“That is what is going to be different about having an East Midlands mayor.”

EMCCA

Ms Ward will spearhead the newly-formed East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA) and work with all 17 local council areas across the region.

Mark Rogers, the Interim Chief Officer of EMCCA, said he hopes the mayor will bring people closer to politics.

He said: “One of the reasons for having mayors in the first place is to do that. They sit between local communities and central government, so they can speak on their behalf and have that direct dialogue between local and national.

“As people see the power of the mayor, and we have seen those powerful mayors elsewhere, Andy Burnham, Andy Street for example, they bring more investment, they lift the region.”

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