Tuesday 23 July 2024
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Councils to set out document for East Midlands devolution

Council leaders in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will publish a document later this year setting out how a potential future Combined Authority will be managed and governed if a devolution deal is secured.

This document, leaders say, will act as a “plan” and a blueprint for devolution in the East Midlands as councils in the two cities and counties bid to Whitehall for more funding and decision-making powers.

A Government minister has already publicly backed the East Midlands plan for devolution, which could give local leaders more ability to shape how money is spent in the region and provide more local control on major projects.

It would mirror similar deals achieved in other regions like Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire, with a potential combined authority to include representatives from the two city and county councils.

A mayor would also need to be elected to control the combined authority, with initial suggestions indicating the first election for this position will take place in May 2024 alongside the next General Election.

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Leaders expect negotiations with the Government to conclude by autumn this year in time for the election, with negotiators focusing on policy areas like health, transport, housing, education and skills and the environment.

The latest cost-benefit analysis for the wider devolution project forecasts that, for every £1 spent by a future Combined Authority, between £13 and £14 would be returned.

The plans are also expected to improve transport connectivity across the region, supporting major projects like the East Midlands Freeport, and lead to thousands of new job opportunities for residents in the region.

Anthony May, chief executive of Nottinghamshire County Council, says negotiations with the Government are “relatively straightforward” because other regions have discussed core elements of devolution in the past.

He adds the councils have stressed the East Midlands deal should be “similar to the deals that have come before us”, stating leaders will be seeking investment sums and powers akin to those in regions like Manchester.

Speaking in the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Economic Prosperity Committee on Friday, he added: “We need to have the capacity to keep pace with this.

“The elements of us working with the Government are more-or-less straightforward depending on whether they have been done before.

“The elements relating to how we work with each other, the governance, consulting with the public and building the Combined Authority – which will have its own structure, rules and operating arrangements – will require capacity and resource.

“We’re going to write all of this down into one overarching document – a plan – so that this group and the wider group of leaders can see how we intend to go about this devolution deal.”

Council papers state this document will also set out negotiating standpoints, a wider governance framework, plans for communication and engagement and the Combined Authority’s wider structure.

This, papers state, will ensure the future authority “is effective from day one”.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is currently made up of 11 representatives – 10 indirectly elected from the councils involved in the project and the directly-elected Labour mayor Andy Burnham.

The Manchester authority represents around 2.8 million people, which is slightly higher than the 2.2 million expected to be governed by the future East Midlands Combined Authority.

Cllr Ben Bradley (Con), leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and Mansfield MP, said: “From my perspective, the work on this, the collaboration on it has been excellent.

“The Minister involved, Neil O’Brien MP, has publicly endorsed our bid which is helpful and – from a legislative perspective – our MPs across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are on board with this too.”

And Cllr David Mellen (Lab), leader of Nottingham City Council, added: “This is going to be about getting our fair share, about revolutionising the adult skills world to give people the ability to retrain and the decision on what that is, isn’t made in Whitehall but somewhere here.

“It’s about being clear what the benefits are so we can talk to people about it on the street.

“Otherwise, there’s going to be a wave of disinterest in this rather than seeing it as I see it – as a way of us being able to do the things we haven’t been able to do in authorities because money has been going elsewhere.”

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