Ben Bradley Column: Plenty to be gained if we can have devolution deal for our region
Last week was a busy one in Parliament, talking about levelling up the East Midlands.
The Prime Minister has set out the steps Government is taking to deliver on its levelling up mission, focusing on raising living standards, spreading opportunity, improving public services and restoring people’s sense of pride in their communities.
The Prime Minister made clear in his speech last week that regional devolution will be a key mechanism for Government to invest in our regions. Already 41% of the country has a devolution deal, but we don't! If we want to access the same investment and the same local powers to decide closer to home on key issues that other areas have, we need to start talking about this. Otherwise we’re at risk of missing out on that investment.
This gives us an opportunity to put forward an ambitious levelling up package at the heart of a sustained recovery for our region. I know very few people are interested in the structures and the administration of these things, in truth. What we all want to see is outcomes. Does this work? Will this improve our area? That’s what we need to investigate. There’s nothing at all to lose but possibly a lot to gain by engaging with Government on this early, and examining what the opportunity might be to access more funding, or to bring powers down from Government to our area that allow us to be more local and more targeted in what we deliver. Other areas can already do this, but we can’t!
As we recover from the pandemic, we need to have a strong ambition to harness the enthusiasm and commitment to rebuild the East Midlands economy and to improve the living standards of local people, bringing high powered jobs, sustainable employment, training opportunities, growth and prosperity. That means having an appropriate system and vehicle to take the national policies and to make them work for our area. There’s a long conversation ahead about exactly what that looks like and how it might work, but I’m raising this with great intensity now because it’s really important that we are part of that conversation.
An East Midlands combined authority could create a single voice for the region, with a clear and focussed strategy to improve service across the whole area tailored to local areas and the issues that are specific to them. Taking the powers from Whitehall and bringing them closer to home. I do believe this is the right time to look at this and believe it will benefit all local residents in Mansfield and Warsop. I’m seeking the views of all of the local leaders across Notts and the wider region, and though we’re nowhere near getting in to the details, I hope there will be no barrier to a discussion. This autumn is a huge period for this policy with lots of key decisions, and it’s vital that our region is part of the conversation.