Nottinghamshire County Council approves devolution deal – but not everyone’s happy

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Nottinghamshire county councillors have voted in favour of an East Midlands devolution deal – but some said they did so because it was ‘the only deal’ on the table when it comes to further regional funding.

The £1.14bn agreement will see a single mayor elected to cover the combined authority of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Only five members voted against it during a full council meeting, despite some raising concerns about the scale of funding and an added layer of administrative government.

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The ruling Conservative group backed the plan with enthusiasm, while Labour and most Independents offered more measured support.

Nottinghamshire Council has approved the proposed £1.14bn devolution dealNottinghamshire Council has approved the proposed £1.14bn devolution deal
Nottinghamshire Council has approved the proposed £1.14bn devolution deal

The vote will allow the combined authority to come into being, and for mayoral elections to be held in May.

The combined authority will receive £38m annually for 30 years for transport, education, housing, regeneration and other projects.

The elected mayor will have the power to make some major decisions which would previously have been made in Whitehall.

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Speaking during the debate, Coun Ben Bradley MP (Con), council leader, said: “Regardless of who wins, new powers and funds will mean residents are better off.

“It’s a big opportunity – one we need to grab with both hands.

"It will help to address the chronic underfunding the region.

“It will make a lasting positive change in Nottinghamshire and the wider region.

"I can’t think of anyone who won’t support this.”

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Coun Kate Foale, Labour group leader, said: “This is the only deal we have but I am far from convinced it’s a good deal for the county.

“Real devolution would tackle inequality, poverty and disadvantaged, and allow councils to take urgent action on the cost of living crisis.

“It shouldn’t be top-down instructions from Westminster by people who’ve not set foot in the midlands.”

Coun Michelle Welsh (Lab) said she was a ‘big supporter of devolution’, but claimed Nottinghamshire would get short-changed.

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She suggested Government figures show the deals would give £21 per person for the Lincolnshire devolution deal, £22 for the north east and £23 for Norfolk, compared to £17.27 for Nottinghamshire.

Coun Bradley responded that looking at funding per head, and not the overall amount, showed a ‘lack of vision’.

Others argued that an elected mayor would help raise the profile of the East Midlands.

Coun Keith Girling (Con) said: “We have missed out on inward investment because the region doesn’t speak with one voice, compared to those with a single point of contact.”

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However, Coun Steve Carr (Ind), who voted against the deal, complained there was already ‘a lack of investment for existing local authorities’.

He pointed to the precarious financial situations of Nottingham City Council – which effectively declared bankruptcy last week – and Derby City Council – which has a £6m budget gap.

Coun Lee Waters (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall South, asked why the deal hadn’t been put to a referendum, saying: “You can trust the people on this, just like Brexit.

“This devolution reminds me what that was all about, but on a local level.”

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A total 52 councillors voted in favour, five against and one abstained.

The mayoral election will be held on May 2.

Several parties have already selected candidates, including Coun Bradley for the Conservatives, former MP Clare Ward for Labour and Coun Matt Relf and Independent.

Others are yet to declare.