Only ‘the nod’ from Chancellor George Osborne now stands between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire securing the biggest handover of powers from Government in generations.
New laws received Royal Assent yesterday (28 January 2016) which could release “game-changing” investment in infrastructure, job creation, transport and skills.
The UK currently has one of the most centralised systems of Government in Europe, but the new Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, which now has Royal Assent, paves the way for the handing down of powers which would give local people and business a greater control of their own affairs.
Council and business leaders from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, with business support, have been negotiating for a comprehensive package of new powers and investment to be released from Government control into the hands of local people, who have a better understanding of the challenges and needs of the area.
The North Midlands Devolution deal would deliver:
• 55,000 new private sector jobs
• 77,000 extra homes
• An Investment Fund over 30 years to provide infrastructure such as roads and bridges
• Adult skills provision to better meet the needs of businesses
• A joint transport fund to spend on key transport improvements
• Better co-ordinated public transport, with Oyster card style smart ticketing
• More responsive and co-ordinated business support for growth
• 110,000 new apprenticeships
• More people entering employment through better targeted local programmes
• Journey times to London of less than 90 minutes by train.
Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “The law is now in place for Government to devolve powers so there is nothing stopping it happening – it is entirely in the Government’s court. Nineteen local council leaders in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire have put party politics aside, come up with a deal we’re all agreed on – most of which has also been agreed by Government – and published it.
“Now we are ready to seal the deal with Government so that people in the region can start to benefit as soon as possible from the boost to economic growth, new jobs, new homes and improved quality of life that it will bring. There is no reason from our perspective why this can’t happen now.”
Councillor Alan Rhodes, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said for every day that passed between now and Government sign-off of the deal, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire was losing ground to other parts of the UK.
Councillor Rhodes said: “Devolution deals have already been agreed for seven areas of the country. Now that the legislation is in place, all those deals can progress to the next stage and remain on course to go live next May. The clock is now ticking if we are to avoid being left behind and miss out on the game-changing investment our area desperately needs.
“The people of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire should have just the same opportunity for new jobs, better transport, affordable housing and control over their own destiny as people living in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. The alternative to Devolution is remaining on the outside whilst other places thrive and the bleak prospect of life in the economic wilderness.”
Councillor Anne Western, Leader of Derbyshire County Council added: “The Government accepts that Devolution is desperately needed to aid the economic recovery, the law is passed and we have a fantastic package of deliverable measures on the table. Now all the people of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire await is the nod from George Osborne.
“It seems like every day that another local business comes out in support of our deal or a major think-tank study concludes that the best chance for an area’s economic growth is with devolved powers and funding. The experts are saying Devolution is needed now, local people and businesses are saying it’s needed now, even the Government is saying it’s needed now. Let’s do it now.”
Scott Knowles, Chief Executive, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “The enactment of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is a significant milestone which brings the prospect of the devolution of a swathe of powers to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire another step closer.
“We have a broad base of businesses here which play a huge role in driving the UK’s economy and they stand ready to champion the completion of a Devolution deal, on the understanding that business engagement will remain central to its implementation.”
David Ralph, Chief Executive of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership,added: “Royal Assent to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is a major step in the Government’s commitment to deliver Devolution, including a North Midlands Devolution Deal covering Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
“All partners in the Deal recognise the importance of a strong D2N2 area economy and believe Devolution will provide some of the levers to boost productivity, create more jobs, and improve the skills levels and career prospects of our communities.
“With legislation now in place, we hope to see Government picking up the baton and quickly confirming the Deal for our area, without further unnecessary delays.”
Nineteen councils across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire together with business leaders, including from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and East Midlands Chamber, have been in negotiations with Ministers over a Devolution deal for the area since last March.
They are seeking to create a single Combined Authority for the region by March 2016 – the first of its kind featuring district, borough, city and county councils.
Under the deal, the Combined Authority and a new Mayor, elected by the people of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, would be granted powers and resources currently held in London and gain responsibility for delivering a raft of new measures to boost economic growth, create jobs, build new homes and improve the quality of life for people living in the area.
The new powers would be held and delivered separately but in support of existing services, which would continue to be delivered by the local Councils.