Devolution deal cash lost through inflation ‘before a penny has hit bank’

The four council leaders with former Secretary of State Greg Clark (centre)
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

A Nottingham councillor fears a significant amount of a £1.14bn devolution deal for the East Midlands has already been lost through inflation “before a penny has hit the bank account”.

In October last year Nottingham City Council, Derby City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and Derbyshire County Council agreed on a deal to provide more decision-making power and greater access to funding.

An elected mayor will be required to get the most out of the deal, alongside a new combined authority covering an area of around 2.2m people.

The deal will provide the area with £38m per year for a period of 30 years, as a base amount, with roughly £5m of this designated to the city each year.

A consultation took place between November and January to ask the public what they made of the deal, but the idea of a new elected mayor for the East Midlands failed to win overall support.

During an extraordinary Nottingham City Council Full Council meeting on March 23, councillors had to approve the amended devolution proposals to reflect the results of the public consultation.

It was unanimously approved by Nottingham Labour, the Nottingham Independents and the Conservatives, but not without criticism.

Councillors said it would allow the city to “build-up” its public transport, which is already owned by the council, as well as helping to land further funding and opportunities in its work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2028.

It was agreed it was a “starting point”, however concerns remained around the amount of money being offered as well as the need for a regional mayor.

Cllr Graham Chapman (Lab), who represents Aspley, said the “smatterings” of funding for the region “pale in significance to the loss of Government funding to the city year on year since 2010”.

“If we get a good mayor, it can be very helpful. If you get a bad one, it can be a disaster,” he said.

“Dangling in front of us is £1.14bn over 30 years. Sounds temptingly like a lot of money but when you spread it over 30 years, for 2.2 million people, it is not.

“£17 per head in year one descends to £5 per head in year 30. It is not index linked.

“We have already lost 10 per cent of its value through inflation before a penny of it has hit the regional bank account.

“The problem is our expectations over the last 12 years have been so depressed, our ambitions so low, that we must now pretend this is a major shift.”

Cllr David Mellen, the leader of the council, added: “This has been a journey. Starting every week, some parts of the last three years talking to three Conservative leaders for several hours is not always particularly what I want to do, but I believe that in partnership we have moved forwards.

“We talked about the £38m not being enough. They are quite right, if that was the amount we are getting.

“That is just the game share, the basic amount.

“Let me tell you the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, who have less per head than we are being promised, have just negotiated a large £1.5bn deal and that is significantly more.

“That is still not enough, still absolutely not the money we have lost from Government but those things are the opportunities that are here.

“It is not about the game share, it is about being at the place where, currently, the Government is choosing to invest in the way they don’t in Nottingham, in the way we have to jump up and down, and parade, to get little bits of money here there and everywhere and waste a lot in doing so.”

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