Senior business leaders have thrown their weight behind a ground-breaking devolution deal for the East Midlands.
A team of nineteen local authorities and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership are in final negotiations with Government over a devolution deal which would drive co-ordinated economic growth across a combined area of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire.
Businesses are expected to play a key role in making the initiative work and a number of senior business figures have now voiced their support for the push to secure greater local control of decision-making.
Among them is Sir John Peace, the founder of Nottingham-based Experian, who chaired a Commission on the future of non-metropolitan economies which produced a report earlier this year.
Sir John said: “The devolution process has the potential to be one of the most significant changes in the way we develop the potential of local economies. I’m excited by the opportunity it presents and convinced that, given the appropriate freedoms, we can do more to help the towns and rural communities.
“We already know that our cities are real engines of growth, not just in the East Midlands but nationally and internationally. But my research showed that there is significant unexplored potential in our non-metropolitan areas and the devolution process opens up the possibility that we can take targeted action to make the most of that.”
Sir John added: “It is businesses that will provide the growth and jobs of the future and it is crucially important that they get actively involved in this process. My view is that we need to be bold, to improve the way we take decisions about investment in local economies and grasp the opportunity presented by devolution.”
Another prominent business figure, Graham Cartledge CBE, says he also supports the principle of devolution. The Chairman of the Notts-based architects, masterplanners and designers Benoy, he conducts business around the world and has acted as a global ambassador for the Nottinghamshire economy.
He said: “We live in a global economy and Benoy is one of many businesses which today operates on the world stage. I’m immensely proud of the contribution that the East Midlands makes to international trade, but I have no doubt that devolution and local control of decision-making offers the potential to up our game even further.
“We have been the fastest-growing regional economy outside London and the south east, but in order to maintain that trajectory we have to invest in the future. Devolution will enable us to use the combined insights of business and local authorities to make better-informed investments in areas like infrastructure and skills training, which will help us to compete globally.”
The details of the proposed East Midlands Devolution Deal are still being discussed, with an agreement expected to be announced soon. But devolution’s potential benefits are already being explained to businesses by the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership. The private sector-led partnership of businesses, local authorities, skills and training providers, community organisations and others, was established in late 2010 to promote economic growth and jobs creation across Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire.
Peter Richardson, the Chairman of D2N2 explained: “Devolution has the potential to be one of the most significant changes for decades in the way we make decisions about how our regional economies should operate and grow. Details of the East Midlands deal are still under discussion but it is expected to cover areas such as economic development, skills and training, transport, infrastructure and housing development.
“Business needs to be at the heart of this process. D2N2 is using its current series of six Business Breakfasts, being held across the area, to outline the benefits devolution will bring to businesses and the wider East Midlands economy. Other events are being planned and we will have information available online which outlines why this deal is particularly important to business.”
East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), which represents thousands of businesses across the area, says it is crucial that business remains central to the devolution agenda.
Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles, said: “Local businesses broadly support devolution which, if done properly, will deliver greater efficiency accountability and better results. However, it must be done for sound business reasons.
“As the devolution agenda progresses, there is a clear need to ensure the business voice is not diluted when it comes to giving local communities more control over their own destinies, as it is business that will create the jobs and generate the growth needed to drive the economy.
“Businesses will champion the completion of a devolution deal on the understanding that business engagement will remain central to its implementation.”
Councillor Alan Rhodes, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, is part of the team negotiating the devolution deal on behalf of the 19 local authorities involved. He says the East Midlands’ economy could secure significant benefits from locally-based decision-making.
Councillor Rhodes said: “If you look at the economies of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, they have major concentrations of industries which make a massive contribution to the whole UK economy – industries like aerospace, transport engineering and life sciences, for example.
“But we have ground to make up in parts of the region where the after-effects of the closure of legacy industries are still being felt. The way to tackle those challenges is to take targeted action which equips people with the skills of the future and connects a willing workforce with businesses looking to grow. So this devolution deal could be a golden opportunity.”
Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, added: “Negotiating a devolution deal has been an intensive process, but we want businesses to know that they are front and centre of our thinking for the future.
“Our goal is to secure a deal which works for the East Midlands and a structure which translates that into economic growth. It’s great to see senior business people and organisations back this process. It is a major opportunity for the regional economy and they need to be part of it.”