Nottinghamshire backs devolution for the East Midlands

hs2-high-speed-rail
Devolution could help the East Midlands take advantage of projects like HS2, which will come through Notts.
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottinghamshire County Council will write to the Government to express its support for East Midlands devolution.

Councillors backed the move following a lengthy debate, with cross-party support for more decentralised powers.

It came during a motion initially proposed by Tory council leader Ben Bradley, who has been outspoken on the issue this week.

His motion called for the three group leaders to write to the Government and “prioritise” the region for a devolution deal.

This comes in advance of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ white paper and following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call to arms last week.

Councillor Neil Clarke (Con) represents Bingham West and spoke in support of the plan.

He told full council on Thursday (July 22): “This is about the people of Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands.

“I have said many times the East Midlands is viewed as a wilderness that you travel through on the way to London or the north.

“It’s not just fairer funding, it’s investing in our futures, upping our game and getting better investment for jobs and all the people who live here.”

The initial motion also backed the construction of the high-speed HS2 line in Toton and called for extra plans on development funding.

The Ashfield Independents amended the motion to include support for the full electrification of the Midlands Mainline railway project, stating the “economic and environmental benefits” it could bring.

Councillor Jason Zadrozny (Ash Inds) is the leader of Ashfield District Council.

He said: “We all want better for Nottinghamshire and the only way to get that cash is to have this system.

“At this point, we’re willing to investigate the first stage of this system, the options open to us, on the basis that it might unlock further conversations.”

But he added: “Our support is not unconditional, absolutely not. We expect to be around the table and listened to.

“At this point, I’m happy to support this combined motion and to start a conversation.”

However, despite strong support within the chamber, the Labour group abstained during the vote.

Many Labour members spoke in favour of devolution in principle, calling however for more detailed proposals.

Councillor Penny Gowland (Lab) represents West Bridgford North.

She said: “Personally I’m strongly committed to devolution. But I think the problem with the motion is what it doesn’t mention.

“It doesn’t mention adult social care, it mentions transport but it only mentions HS2, it doesn’t mention buses.

“I understand we want to come up with the detail later, but we need to understand what it is we’re being asked to support.”

The motion was passed with 46 votes in favour and 12 abstentions.

If devolution is achieved it could lead to the creation of an East Midlands Combined Authority.

This would have powers to set policy on issues like health, transport, housing, planning and regional development.

Supporters add that it could open up the door to regional infrastructure schemes, control over public transport costs and would drive projects off the back of HS2.

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