Nottinghamshire should ‘snap Government’s hand off’ for full devolution deal says council leader

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Nottingham and Nottinghamshire should ‘snap the Government’s hand off’ to get a full devolution deal, Nottinghamshire County Council leader Ben Bradley has said.

Coun Bradley’s (Con) comments came after the Government named the county as one of nine areas to test its new ‘county deal’ devolution plans.

The announcement, which came in the ‘Levelling Up’ white paper, confirmed attempts by all nine county authorities to seek more funding and powers had been successful.

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The new project could give upper-tier and unitary local councils more ability to shape services like healthcare, public transport, education and skills, strategic planning and public safety.

Coun Ben Bradley MP, Nottinghamshire County Council leaderCoun Ben Bradley MP, Nottinghamshire County Council leader
Coun Ben Bradley MP, Nottinghamshire County Council leader

However, details within the paper confirm the county will only be handed the most powers if a directly-elected, political mayor is the ‘accountable’ person to use them.

The mayoral position would need to be accompanied by a combined authority, which would only incorporate Nottinghamshire and Nottingham councils when making decisions.

And according to the paper, a maximum of 23 powers could be devolved from Whitehall as part of the devolution plans. Choosing the option with a directly-elected mayor and a combined authority would secure all 23.

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The number of powers would reduce to 11 without the mayoral post – and Coun Bradley says this level of devolution is roughly what the new ‘county deals’ represent.

But if local leaders chose not to create a new structure and opted to stay with the current system, which operates with the nine councils and a joint committee, just three new powers would be handed from the Government.

There would, however, be ‘scope to negotiate further powers, on a case-by-case basis’.

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And speaking in the council’s budget debate, Coun Bradley stated the new powers will allow the region to get out of the ‘shadow’ of its neighbours.

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But he hinted the best way to do this would be via a route with a combined authority and potentially an elected mayor.

He said: “Having spent decades complaining we don’t get our fair share of investment, that we’re in the shadow of our partners in the West Midlands and deserve more for our region, the Government are saying we can have it.

“Frankly, we should snap their hand off to get it.”

However, Coun Kate Foale, leader of the Labour group in County Hall, said: “The idea an elected mayor will improve things as we get more highly-conditional ringfenced money, I think, is questionable.

“I’m concerned elected mayors will represent yet more top-down governance, with a local voice disappearing even further down the road.”

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Details within the white paper also confirmed district and borough councils would act as ‘non-constituent members’ and would have no power under a potential combined authority.

Coun Jason Zadrozny, Ashfield District Council leader and leader of the Independent Alliance in County Hall, has said he will not support the full devolution deal if it reduces the influence and voice of district and borough councils.

He said: “It’s high time the Government stopped treating councils like Ashfield as mugs.

“We feel the maximum devolution deal offered by the Government does exactly that by treating us like second-class citizens.

“Councils like Ashfield will not be bullied and blustered into accepting a deal not right for our residents.”