Neil O’Brien MP (Con), the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said he was ‘very pleased’ that Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council are looking for a mayoral deal, describing the plans as ‘exciting’ and welcoming the ‘ambitious devolution deal’.
The leaders of the four councils sent initial proposals to negotiate a combined devolution deal in March, after being named as pathfinder areas by the Government in February and being invited to apply for a devolution deal.
If devolution plans are approved, it could mean more money for services in the regions, more major decisions being made locally, nearer the people they affect, and a bigger voice for the region, which is home to 2.2 million people.
The councils are looking for greater funding and autonomy in areas including transport and infrastructure, business growth, inward investment, strategic regeneration, destination management, employment, and skills.
If the proposals are given the green light, the first election for a regional mayor, for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire, could be in May 2024.
Coun Ben Bradley MP (Con), leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and chairman of the City of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Economic Prosperity Committee (EPC) said: “Devolution plans are all about getting a better deal for our area, to help improve things for residents.
“With a population of 2.2 million, a future combined authority will be one of the biggest in the country. It’s time that we got our fair share, so we can deliver better services and better outcomes for the people who live and work in the East Midlands, and improve people’s lives.
“It’s still early days, but the potential benefits could be enormous.
"This will give us a bigger voice and help us work together to achieve the improvements we all want to see.
"We’ve had a very positive response from the Government, so we’ll keep working on the details, discussing this, and get the best deal we can, so we can make the most of this opportunity to bring in more funding and more local decision making.
"It’s really good news.”
The devolution plan does not involve merging or scrapping existing local councils or replacing them.
"If the deal does go ahead all local councils in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire will continue to exist, and will not lose any powers they have now.
Local councils would still be responsible for most public services.
"The mayor would focus on wider issues that span across the area, like transport, regeneration, and employment.”
The four councils will continue to closely involve district and borough councils in the plan.
The deal would not create a new tier of government – it would move resources and decision-making powers which already exist from London to the East Midlands.
The four councils will continue to work with district and borough councils, businesses, and other stakeholders, to look at details of the plan, which need to be approved by the Government.
If a combined authority plan is approved, a devolution agreement could be in place by the end of this year.