By Peter Makossah
The general public in Nottingham and Derby has given green-light and colossal support on the devolution proposals for the £1.4 billion East Midlands devolution plans, Mojatu Online has learnt.
Local leaders are backing devolution to promote economic growth, secure more investment in our area, for more and better jobs, and for better transport, skills training, housing, and an enhanced greener environment. It would also mean more power in local hands.
Thousands of people took part in the consultation, which took place from November 2022 to January 2023, which was open to residents, businesses, community and voluntary groups, and other employers in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby, and Nottingham.
According to Derby and Nottingham City and County Councils involved, there were 4,869 responses to the consultation overall, from members of the public and people answering on behalf of an organisation.
The Government has offered new powers to Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby, and Nottingham, along with at least £1.14 billion of funding, through the proposed creation of an East Midlands Combined County Authority.
A formal proposal was developed, outlining how devolution would work in the area, which was the focus of the consultation – Historically, the East Midlands has often been an area of low Government funding, compared to many other areas of the UK – If the proposals for devolution go ahead, a guaranteed funding stream of £38 million a year for 30 years could help to reverse this trend.
Barry Lewis, Leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: “It’s very encouraging to see the broad support for these plans to bring in £38 million a year and move major decision-making to the people who best know our communities, rather than Westminster.
“I’m pleased that so many residents and organisations came forward to give their views about the East Midlands devolution proposal, and I’d like to thank everyone who took part.
“Clearly there was less support for an elected mayor which I fully acknowledge. The reality is, to obtain the greatest powers and highest levels of funding from the Government to benefit local people, an elected mayor is a condition of that deal.
Lewis said the councils involved are now working together on a final devolution proposal thereby assuring everyone who took the time to take part in the consultation that their views will be central to shaping our thoughts to the Government.
“At the heart of this devolution deal is a desire to seize every opportunity to improve people’s lives across our region by making sure we get a fair share of Government funding.” Said Lewis.
On his part, David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took part in our consultation. It is vital we listen to your views, and we will use these to help shape plans locally for the benefit of Nottingham and the whole East Midlands Devolution area.
“I am pleased that most respondents supported the plans for an East Midlands Combined County Authority. This deal would see us get the most powers and funding available and with that comes a regional Mayor. Devolution has the potential to make a significant difference, and local people would see the real benefits from the investment to more and better jobs, housing, training and much more.
“For too long we haven’t had the investment we need and deserve, and this deal would start to address this if given approval. But this is just the start, and I would work to make sure that we get our fair share and make the most of any funding.
“As a Core City leader in a region which has been hugely under-funded, I am gratified to see that residents across our four authorities recognise the benefits of being involved in a Combined County Authority.”
The number of responses was higher than similar consultations on devolution in other areas.
The majority backed the proposals:
- 53% agreed with the proposals for transport, compared to 35% disagreeing.
- 52% agreed with the proposals for skills, compared to 32% disagreeing.
- 51% agreed with the proposals for reducing carbon and improving the environment, compared to 33% disagreeing.
- 51% agreed with the proposals for public health, compared to 33% disagreeing.
- 46% agreed with the proposals for homes, compared to 39% disagreeing.
The only area which was more balanced was in terms of the proposals for governance, with 42% agreeing and 45% disagreeing. Comments tended to centre around the need for a regional mayor. Having a regional mayor is a condition set by the Government for a level three deal, which offers the most powers and highest funding.
Ben Bradley MP, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “It’s really positive to see that so many people support the devolution plans and can see the substantial long-term benefits that this would make possible for our area.
“More than a billion pounds of guaranteed funding, more local decision making, and new powers to improve transport, housing, skills training, the economy, the environment, and many other areas – the potential is huge.
“We had a great response, and I’d like to thank the thousands of people who took part.
Bradley explained that there are obviously differences of opinion in terms of a mayor saying: “We can’t have the highest funding and most effective local powers, that people support, without one. So, I want to see find ways to meet the requirements set by the Government and take on board comments in the consultation, so we can get the best deal possible for the East Midlands.”
The leaders of Derbyshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Derby City Council, and Nottingham City Council all signed up to work on a devolution deal in August 2022 at Rolls Royce in Derby, following an announcement from the Government that a package of new powers and funding, worth £1.14 billion, were available for the two counties and two cities.
The four councils then worked on a more detailed proposal, including more information about how devolution would work in our area, which was the focus of the consultation.
Many local organisations, too, firmly supports devolution for the area.
Chris Poulter, Leader of Derby City Council, said: “I’m really pleased to see so many people engaging with these proposals. We know that the number of responses was high when compared to similar consultations in other areas, and with the majority of respondents backing devolution proposals.
“We know that devolution can bring real benefits for local people, as it has done in other parts of the country; we now need to get this over the line so that we can make a real difference for people in the areas.
“The East Midlands has long been overlooked and held back compared to other areas of the country. The cities and counties in our region should have a bigger voice, and this devolution deal would give us the influence, funding, and powers that we deserve.”
Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber, said: “Our region is home to a wide range of fantastic businesses, from industrial powerhouses with household names to university spinouts that boast vast potential, and everything in between.
“What they now need is the political apparatus that removes any obstacles to national and local decision-making, enhances our ability to attract investment and ultimately creates a more business-friendly environment. This would help them to take strides forward in productivity and innovation, enabling firms to drive the economic growth that creates jobs and wealth locally.”
Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, said she is delighted that the authorities within the East Midlands are working to secure a deal for a combined authority.
Professor Mitchell said: This should provide an opportunity to present a compelling case to central government for more levelling up funding that can be spent strategically to improve productivity and the number of highly skilled jobs across the region.
“It will also enable universities, and other providers of skills, innovation, and business support, to work collaboratively with a single group ensuring spend on regional development delivers the best value for money.”
Natalie Gasson-McKinley, Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
“The scale of the opportunity is huge, done right. There are lots of decisions that are made centrally around adult education budgets, around infrastructure, transport, so to have the opportunity for local people and local decision makers to shape those things and to really impact them is a really once in their lifetime opportunity.
“For small businesses in particular, the opportunity to shape their local economic environment is crucial. There’s so much happening to businesses at the moment. It is a really tough and challenging time. So, to have decision makers placed locally, who can really impact and make positive change, is everything to those businesses right now.”
Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, said: “The University was pleased to support the application for a devolution deal for the East Midlands, with a significant contribution from our Honorary Professor of Economics, Andy Haldane, and looks forward to working with all levels of government to improve the lives of all communities in our region.
“A new combined authority for the East Midlands would strengthen the work which is already taking place between the public, private and higher education sectors, so that we can better work together to improve things for everyone who lives and works in the East Midlands.”
Legislation to make the new form of Combined County Authority legal could go through Parliament later this year, which would then need to be approved and receive Royal Assent. This could happen in early 2024.
A new East Midlands Combined County Authority could then officially come into existence in spring 2024, with the first ever election for a regional mayor, covering Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby, and Nottingham, taking place in May 2024.
A future mayor would be held to account by elected representatives from county and city councils in the East Midlands, as well as a scrutiny committee. The mayor would be directly elected by residents in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby, and Nottingham.
Professor Edward Peck, the Vice-Chancellor, and President of Nottingham Trent University, said: “Nottingham Trent University is focused on reimaging the role of our university within our local communities. We utilise our skills and our resources to create opportunities for economic, social, and cultural development, working in close collaboration with partners across the region.
“We are confident that the creation of an East Midlands Combined Authority will strengthen these partnerships, broadening the range of areas that are important to local people on which together we can make and implement key decisions.
In particular, NTU will relish the chance to take ever more innovative steps that will transform the provision of skills training for all residents within the Combined Authority as these will improve the financial prospects of individuals, support the economic viability of neighbourhoods, and enable existing and incoming businesses to thrive and grow.”
Janet Smith, Chief Executive and Principal of Nottingham College, said: “Nottingham College prepares young people for that first crucial step into employment and, each year, supports thousands of adults returning to education to further develop their skills or retrain for a new career.
“We recognise the opportunities that the East Midlands Combined Authority can bring for local control, de-regulation and innovation. We know that securing a devolution deal for the East Midlands will bring targeted support and investment and enable education and training providers to act with speed and flexibility to best serve the needs of all in our region.
“Devolution strengthens local links and ensures joined-up decision making and here at Nottingham College we know how effective collaboration can unlock opportunities that benefit our people. Through the East Midlands Combined Authority we will see how true collaboration and partnership working can better position our region and deliver growth and prosperity for all of us.”
“What they now need is the political apparatus that removes any obstacles to national and local decision-making, enhances our ability to attract investment and ultimately creates a more business-friendly environment..”Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL,
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby