Levelling up white paper confirms Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to get devolution ‘county deal’

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By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottinghamshire councils have been successful in attempts to gain more devolved decision-making power from the Government and will now negotiate for a ‘county deal’.

The city and county were named as one of nine areas selected to progress with the Government’s new form of devolution on Wednesday (February 2).

The announcement means Nottingham and Nottinghamshire authorities could receive extra funding and powers to improve vital services like healthcare, transport, planning, education and regional development.

Supporters say it could open up the door to regional infrastructure schemes and control over public transport costs and could drive projects off the back of HS2 and the East Midlands Freeport.

In its announcement today, the Government confirmed all nine areas – which also includes Derby and Derbyshire, and Leicestershire – will also be invited to negotiate on whether they want a ‘Mayoral Combined Authority’.

This system is similar to those in places like Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and the West Midlands, where directly-elected, political mayors oversee the control, spending and planning of major projects.

It’s unclear at this stage whether Nottingham and Nottinghamshire would take advantage of a mayoral setup, with Councillor Ben Bradley MP (Con), leader of the county council and Mansfield MP, previously playing down the idea.

But the Government says a mayoral system is available “for those areas that want one”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the Government’s announcement, Cllr Bradley also ruled out any local government reforms similar to the authority’s previous, unsuccessful ‘super-council’ plans.

He said: “It’s great news and everything we have asked for in terms of our county deal priorities.

“Nottinghamshire is going to get a devolution deal because everything we need is in that white paper.

“We will be talking in the next few days about what we want to do. That’s not something I can decide and it needs to be a discussion amongst all [council] partners.

“None of this involves a discussion about reform or unitary councils and there’s no wish to mix them up. I’ll be incredibly clear with district and borough leaders about that as I know the strength of feeling.”

Cllr David Mellen (Lab), leader of Nottingham City Council, also welcomed the devolution news.

He said: “A devolution deal would address the underfunding of the region and result in extra powers and money from Government, enabling all local councils to work collectively together to make the most of the possible opportunities that a devolution deal would represent.

“We have been developing plans [to become] one of the Government’s devolution pathfinders, which would see wide-ranging improvements focused on transport and infrastructure, skills and employment and climate change.”

However, one council leader raised concerns about some elements of the white paper and said the announcement could come “at a price”.

Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), leader of Ashfield District Council and the Independent Alliance in County Hall, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The white paper doesn’t clearly define what levelling up means, nor what any devolution deal may mean.

“It asks us to start negotiations to claw more power from Whitehall but doesn’t state what extra powers we will get.

“Devolution is just a word and is nothing without the nuts and bolts.

“I’m not sure that residents will welcome extra, pricey bureaucracy when the cost of living crisis is hitting them so hard. People don’t tell me they want a mayor or governor of the whole of Nottinghamshire including Nottingham.”

Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, said the new measures will address a “postcode lottery” of underfunding in regions across the country.

The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire economic prosperity committee, which includes leaders from all nine councils, will now decide how the county will negotiate its deal and what it wants to achieve.

Its next meeting is on March 8.

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