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Government commits to devolution progress in East Midlands

A minister has confirmed the Government’s commitment to supporting a devolution deal to “empower” the region.

The £1.14bn deal means leaders will be given more power by the Government to make localised decisions.

The agreement was signed by former Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark on August 30.

But a shake-up in Government led to the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak moving into Number 10 in October.

There was then silence over the plans, which would create a single regional elected mayor for Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire.

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But on Monday (December 5), a fresh commitment was made to the deal for the region, which involves some key powers and funding transferring to politicians from Whitehall.

Local political leaders, businesses and healthcare officials met at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nottingham to discuss the plans, which are currently under consultation until January.

Over 2,000 people have completed the questionnaire on the plans so far, David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council (Lab) said.

Lee Rowley, parliamentary under secretary of state in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, spoke remotely at the event and committed his support to the devolution deal.

The department is currently controlled by Michael Gove and has been negotiating the deal with local leaders since this time last year.

Mr Rowley, who is also an MP for North East Derbyshire, said: “As the MP for North East Derbyshire for five and a half years, I know how much good work goes on across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire on a daily basis.

“We all know there is more that can be done and the opportunities to do more are ones we should seriously consider.

“Our choice now as a region is whether to face the future.

“We have an unrivalled geographical position in our country, brilliant transport links, and fantastic entrepreneurial companies.

“The whole point of why we’re here today, is because from a government perspective speaking as a minister, we want to work with you all to unleash that potential.

“We know some people will take some time to be convinced on some of the things being proposed here.

“We are serious about wanting to empower the East Midlands.”

David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council (Lab) said:

“As the leader of Nottingham City Council, I’m interested in what we can get for the people of Nottingham and the region.

“Yes it’s not perfect, yes we’d like more money but we’re out of that stream for more money all together at the moment so let’s get into that stream.

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“I would encourage people who don’t completely understand what is being offered, to go on the website for the consultation and respond.

“I’m pleased we have more people responding than other areas had at this stage.”

“I had the pleasure of opening the event and discussing what this deal will mean for our region with attendees.

“There is clearly a lot of interest and excitement about what benefits the devolution deal can bring – which includes a package of new powers and funding worth £1.14 billion, or £38 million a year over the next 30 years.

“Delegates could see that this has the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives. Key benefits include more investment in our area, economic growth, more and better jobs, better transport and skills training, more housing, an enhanced greener environment and crucially, more power in local hands.”

Some concerns have been raised that the devolution deal could come with a mayoral precept – a form of added council tax.

But Ben Bradley MP, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said the issue was “done and dusted as far as I’m concerned”.

He said: “The deal comes with the power to have a mayoral precept but very few combined authorities have done that in practice.

“Nottinghamshire County Council passed a formal decision that we won’t do that, and I don’t think a mayor could do it without our say so.

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“I understand people’s different views about a mayor, it has its pros and cons.

“The pros are a clear voice for our region which has worked for other places.”

Speaking of a mayoral precept, Cllr Mellen said it “wouldn’t be ideal”.

He said: “I think people are taxed heavily enough.

“I think adding to that anything sizeable as a mayoral precept would be honourous for people here.”

Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council (Con), added: “Given we are a region of 2.2 million people, with £17 per head on the face of it it doesn’t sound like a lot – but it is a lot.

“Past investments have been around £8 per head so it’s almost double that, which is significant.

“We need to ensure we have people’s views captured about devolution so we are ticking the right boxes.

“One of the critical things is an elected mayor. I’m not a fan of elected mayors but we have to capture people’s thoughts about it.

“I don’t support the concept of mayoral precepts but it requires the vote of all of those involved and  I’m certainly not going to vote for it and I know others aren’t going to vote for it so that should keep a lid on it.”

Jason Zadrozny, leader of Ashfield District Council (Ind) said that the party welcomes localised decision making.

He added: “That said, it must not come with rising Council Tax bills.

“We are encouraging people to back devolution with the caveat that bills won’t rise – it’s not the hard pressed resident’s fault that the East Midlands has been significantly underfunded by successive Tory and Labour Governments.”

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