More calls for devolution for the East Midlands

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Council leaders in Nottinghamshire have added their voices to the call for more devolution for the people of Mansfield and Ashfield.

Last week, Chad reported how MPs from around North Nottinghamshire had called for more power for the East Midlands region, following a late surge for the ‘yes vote’ in the Scottish Referendum.

Coun Alan Rhodes

Coun Alan Rhodes

And following victory for the Better Together faction, Prime Minister David Cameron is now set to place English home rule at the heart of the Tory general election manifesto.

Although while there is a clear call for devolved Government for Nottinghamshire, the main political parties now seem divided on the best way of delivering devolution.

Conservatives, unsurprisingly, want to capitalise on Tory dominance south of the border and are pushing for the electoral weight that an English Parliament would offer.

Meanwhile, despite criticisms for Labour Leader Ed Miliband for ‘dithering’ on the devolution debate, left wing politicians seem to be falling in line behind the long-abandoned regional assembly model.

Kay Cutts

Kay Cutts

Nottinghamshire County Council leader Coun Alan Rhodes has called on the Government to ‘seize the moment’ and devolve powers and funding to the rest of the UK.

He described Scotland’s decision to stay in the UK in favour of independence as a ‘victory for common sense’.

Speaking after the declaration of the referendum result, which ended in a 55.3 per cent to 44.7 per cent victory for the ‘no’ campaign, Coun Rhodes said: “Now let the devolution commence.

“The Scottish debate must surely make Whitehall realise that the way forward is to have local areas freed from Government-imposed restrictions and underpinned by a fair distribution of public funding for all of the UK.

“We are asking for locally-elected, community-based politicians to make decisions which address local challenges and concerns and to have the revenue raising and some of the law making powers to enable us to carry out our democratic duty.

“We are all accountable and, if we make the wrong decisions, we can and will be removed by the people we represent.”

Meanwhile, Coun Kay Cutts, Conservative leader on the county council said devolved government would allow for more cost-effective and streamlined local politics.

She said: “It is very clear following the Scottish Referendum that voters in Scotland will hold Westminster leaders to their promises, so English people are entitled to demand the same freedom. Only MPs for English constituencies should vote on those laws that exclusively affect our country.

“Local government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is based on a system of unitary authorities which deliver all council services ‘under one roof’, so surely England is entitled to move to the same structure which will provide the electorate with clearer representation and save money in the process.

“Local government reorganisation in 1974 saw many historic cities across the country downgraded to district council status. In Nottingham’s case this was reversed in 1998 when the City Council once again became a unitary authority, but between 1974 and 1998 there were 55 councillors elected to the City Council district and a further 25 city representatives elected to the County Council, meaning 80 elected councillors for the city overall!

“Nottinghamshire County Council still remains part of an inefficient two-tier system today. It carries out all of the most important responsibilities such as social care, health, education, roads and waste disposal, but district councils inexplicably retain a handful of services, such as emptying the bins.

“There is no justification for paying salaries and providing office buildings for seven district councils when their remaining duties could easily be undertaken by a unitary council. The districts are too large to be truly local and yet much too small to be strategic. The seven districts of Nottinghamshire together elect 307 councillors, whilst Nottinghamshire County Council elects a further 67 for the same area. If it is possible for 55 Nottingham City Councillors to oversee everything in the city, why do we require a total of 374 councillors representing the county, not to mention the cost of running local elections every two years?

“The current system is a dog’s breakfast and the English public deserves better. It is time to listen to the people, rather than MPs in Westminster and civil servants. Ironically, the outcome of the Scottish Referendum should prove to be the catalyst.”