East Midlands elected mayor plan fails to win overall public support

The idea of a new elected regional mayor for the East Midlands has been rejected by residents in a public consultation.
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Almost half – 45 per cent – of the 4,850 people surveyed during the devolution consultation said they did not want a directly-elected mayor for the region, while a further 13 per cent said they didn’t know.

East Midlands leaders are seeking the maximum devolution deal from Government in a bid to gain as much funding and political power as possible, but this requires an elected mayor and new combined council to deliver the plans.

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It comes as part of a £1.14 billion agreement signed by the Government and Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire leaders, bringing in at least £38 million annually for 30 years to invest in transport, skills, environment, public health and housing projects locally.

Leaders sign the devolution deal.Leaders sign the devolution deal.
Leaders sign the devolution deal.

However, the new consultation figures show people are against the political position. Comments related to the need for a regional mayor, as well as concerns about how the new combined authority will be run.

But leaders pushing for the deal – led by Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader Coun Ben Bradley – say a mayor must be appointed regardless of the consultation results, due to its importance in getting the full devolution benefits.

Coun Ben Bradley, who has previously described the role as “very exciting”, but declined to say whether he would stand or not, said: “It’s only 4,800 residents in a population of 2.2m and I don’t think you can draw from this that residents are against having a mayor.

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“For us, this is a learning exercise and now we’re going to deal with some of the concerns residents have raised to us.”

“Overall, the consultation agreed with our priorities for the wider deal, which vindicates our decision to take this forward.

“The Government has been clear we can only achieve this with that kind of structure, you’ve got to have the accountable, elected mayor.”

However, some opposition leaders fear the position is being enforced upon residents without their consent.

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Coun Kate Foale, leader of the Labour Group at County Hall, said: “It’s not surprising East Midlands residents disapprove of being forced to adopt a mayor, but clearly it’s the only way to benefit from the Government’s top-down approach to devolution.

“The whole process smacks of the same old ‘command-and-control’ from Westminster. Given the Conservatives are unlikely to allow this consultation to alter their plans, it will be up to residents to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”

Other consultation results included 53 per cent of responses agreeing with the deal’s plans to invest money in new transport schemes, compared with 35 per cent who disagreed, while 52 per cent were supportive of investment plans for education and skills, compared with 32 per cent disagreeing.

On both improving the environment and public health plans, 51 per cent agreed with the priorities and 33 per cent disagreed and 46 per cent of people agreed with plans to improve housing, compared with 39 per cent disagreeing.

The four leading councils must now accept the consultation results to allow amended proposals for the deal to be drawn up, ahead of the first planned mayoral election in May 2024.