Closer joint working across the Derby and Nottingham metro area could provide an £11 billion boost to the local economy by 2030 resulting in up to 250,000 new jobs*, according to a new report.
The report by leading national consultancy Metro-Dynamics says there is a powerful case for formal collaboration between local authorities and businesses across an area greater than just the two cities in order to improve economic prosperity for the benefit of local people.
It refers to the traditional football rivalry between Nottingham Forest and Derby County, both managed to huge success by Brian Clough.
However, whilst recognising the separate identities and proud individual histories of both cities, the report highlights the critical importance of local authorities and businesses across the wider area working closely to seize emerging new trading opportunities for the metro area and respond to any immediate Brexit-related economic shocks.
A number of compelling benefits for formal economic arrangements have been identified in the report including:
- Giving the Metro area a more powerful voice, so it can respond strongly to the challenges and opportunities of the post-Brexit economy and engage effectively both with the Midlands Engine and UK government.
- Enabling a more strategic approach to generating inclusive growth, through combined approaches to education and skills improvement.
- Ensuring that the area will be able to reap the full economic, connectivity and inclusive growth benefits of Hs2 at Toton.
- Maximising the major growth opportunities which lie in economic and location intersections across the area, for example, between digital and manufacturing sectors, and between Nottingham, Broxtowe, Erewash and Derby over exploiting the full potential of HS2 at Toton.
- Overcoming the challenges of Derby and Nottingham’s relatively tight boundaries and building on the complementary relationships they have with the local authority areas around and between them
*Jobs figure estimated by councils based on GVA and not included in the report
Ben Lucas, Managing Director of Metro Dynamics, says in the report: “The more you look at Derby and Nottingham, the more apparent their underlying economic interdependence becomes. 40,000 people commute regularly between them and over 400,000 people commute to work in the wider metro area. Three quarters of the people who live in the area, also work in the area.”
“Our report makes a strong case for more collaboration to drive inclusive growth. Whilst the two cities will be critical to this, many future economic opportunities lie in the broader metro area.”
The report suggests a definition for this area which includes the urban districts adjacent and between the two cities – Amber Valley, Ashfield, Broxtowe, Erewash, Gedling, Rushcliffe and South Derbyshire. The consequent population of 1.4 million would be the fifth largest in the UK.
Derby and Nottingham City Councils have welcomed the report.
Councillor Ranjit Banwait, Leader of Derby City Council, said: “We launched our Metro Strategy earlier this year which gave the two cities a framework to pursue joint working. An example of this is our shared Gym and Swim offer for residents using our Council leisure facilities.”
“This report however really challenges us to take a more ambitious step and work purposefully across a larger metro area with a greater range of partners. Metro Dynamics present a well-argued case with strong evidence that we really could achieve more. While clearly not without challenges, I think it is an exciting development and hope Derby and Nottingham residents will share that view.”
Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “This report underlines the major benefits closer collaboration across the metro area can bring.
“One issue it highlights is the considerable underfunding we have experienced as an area in terms of Government spending and infrastructure investment.
“As the report states, although we are a similar size economically to the Greater Manchester city region, the wider Derby-Nottingham metro area receives lower government spending per person. If spending were equivalent to Manchester we would gain an additional £1.1bn.
“We will consider the report’s findings and recommendations in depth and discuss with neighbours and partners how we can take a combined approach, going beyond political and organisational interests and boundaries to make the most of the opportunities presented.”
David Williams, Chair of the Metro Strategic Advisory Group, which has members of the business community from Derby and Nottingham, and Chair of Geldards LLP, said: “What really stood out for me in this report is the economic parity of Derby and Nottingham. The two cities have businesses and services which complement one another, with a high level of local residents who work in local companies. It is clear we have much more to gain in common than in competition.
“Metro Dynamics tell us maximum economic benefit will come through formal collaboration between organisations covering an area beyond the two cities. They suggest a potential additional economic growth in GVA of £11bn is achievable long term.
“I found myself asking two fundamental questions – firstly, why the perceived rivalry between Derby and Nottingham has been so dominant in the past and, secondly, what has our whole region missed out on as a result?
“This study feels fresh to me. Looking at a ‘metro’ economy is still new, our relationships are still forming; Metro Dynamics’ independent evidence shows that we are already on the right track.
“To progress together and realise our potential we need an approach that is inclusive and pragmatic. We must form a partnership of equals, focus on areas of mutual economic interest, leaving our organisational interests behind. This will be a challenge, I don’t doubt, though what we achieve will be both exciting and rewarding.
“I am genuinely enthused by the idea of a Metro Growth Board and I will talk to business colleagues over the next few weeks about their response to the report and what we can do next, together.”
Both Councils have stressed that the study is independent and its recommendations are not binding. However, both Leaders agree it provides a good starting point for wider discussion and want to hear from any organisation interested in being involved.
“The current Metro Strategy is in place and our two Councils will continue to work together but this study proves there is a bigger prize and that if we are bolder, we could do much more,” said Cllr Collins.
Cllr Banwait added: “Any action taken would need to be collective. We want to focus on what is important for us and what we really want to do – as the report says, in a true spirit of collaboration”.