Local leaders from a range of sectors came together this month to discuss the progress of East Midlands devolution, as plans to give the region extra powers and funding gather pace and momentum.
The event, held on Friday 18 August, saw Chief Executives at Derbyshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council provide updates on key elements of the region’s proposed devolution deal, including transport, skills and adult education, housing, and net-zero.
Stakeholders representing a broad range of interests across the region – including business, universities and colleges, and emergency services – were given the opportunity to put questions to senior officers at the four councils.
The event was held ahead of several major devolution milestones over the coming months. For the proposed East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA) to come into existence, new legislation is required from the Government, which is anticipated to be in place before the end of the year.
Detailed devolution proposals would then be sent to the Government for approval, meaning that EMCCA could be a reality from spring 2024, with the first ever election for a regional mayor – covering Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby, and Nottingham – taking place in May 2024.
Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, said: “The East Midlands has historically received the lowest levels of public funding in England. The fact that the East Midlands has consistently delivered GDP growth close to the UK average, from very low levels of investment, is testament to the commitment and ingenuity of the thousands of SMEs that are the backbone of the region’s economy.
“Devolving decision-making powers over how funding is spent to local areas is an important step and a once in a generation opportunity to organise ourselves in a way so that it’s easy for Government to provide us with the funding we need to grow our local economy, productivity and wealth.”
Greg Broughton, Sustainable Growth and Place Manager at the Environment Agency (East Midlands), said: “Reflecting on the recent devolution stakeholder event, it was abundantly clear that there is a strong collective enthusiasm and drive to seize the opportunity for devolution to work together, to collaborate in new ways and to make the changes needed to transform the region.
“I was particularly pleased to hear that tackling environmental inequality and climate change is at the heart of the commitment to build a resilient and vibrant future for the people and places of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and I am excited to be part of building this new vision.”
If the plans go ahead, the EMCCA – spanning two counties and cities – would be the first combined county authority in the country, with a new elected regional mayor at the helm, representing around 2.2 million people.
Devolution would provide the region with a guaranteed income stream of at least £1.14 billion, spread over a 30-year period.
More funding is expected to become available once the EMCCA is formed – so far, £18 million has been awarded to the area as early investment during devolution negotiations, which is being spent on improving local housing, transport and skills provision.
Thanks to devolution proposals, the East Midlands has been invited to establish an ‘Investment Zone’, which will attract £80 million of support over five years, with tax incentives for businesses to help boost economic growth right across the region.
Mel Barrett, Chief Executive at Nottingham City Council, said: “It is vital that we work closely with partners and stakeholders to ensure that our region makes the most of the new powers and funding that would become available as part of our once in a generation devolution opportunity.”
Emma Alexander, Managing Director at Derbyshire County Council, said: “Devolution would unlock major benefits for our region, including extra powers and funding around a range of issues including housing, transport, skills, adult education and the environment.
“It is vital that we engage with key stakeholders every step of the way in this process, which is why I was delighted to see so many partners and colleagues in attendance at our event.”
Adrian Smith, Chief Executive at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “I’m hugely optimistic that the way partners are working together means we will ensure that everybody across the length and breadth of our region will benefit from this unprecedented opportunity.
“We have a great many strengths on which to build and the new funding and powers we will bring to the East Midlands will help us improve living standards, business growth, transport, the environment and health and wellbeing.”
Paul Simpson, Chief Executive at Derby City Council, said: “It’s important to recognise that our devolution deal is just the beginning of our aspirations for more powers and funding for the East Midlands.
“We’re focused on building on the deal, as other areas like the West Midlands and Greater Manchester have done, so it was fantastic to connect with local business groups, organisations and partners at our stakeholder event as we develop this ambitious vision.”
Mark Rogers, the new Interim Chief Officer for the East Midlands Devolution Programme, was a guest speaker at the event following his recent appointment.
Rogers brings a wealth of experience to the role, having served as Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, and also played a pivotal role in the formation of the West Midlands Combined Authority. He will be joined by an interim team as the region’s devolution plans progress.
About East Midlands Devolution
Derbyshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council have agreed to a £1.14 billion devolution deal by the government.
The deal would create the first ever Combined County Authority and would see an extra £38 million a year coming to the East Midlands from 2024, addressing years of historically low investment in the region.
It would mean funding and powers move from a national level to a regional level.