Regional MPs united in favour of devolution for the East Midlands

Over the coming months we have a huge opportunity to bring more powers and deliver more investment to the East Midlands, writes Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader.

If we are serious about levelling up our region, then we need to grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Right now, our upper tier local authorities are in negotiations with Government to deliver an East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority covering Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire.

If we’re successful, it would be one of the largest Combined Authorities in the country with a population of more than two million and an economic output of mroe than £42.9 billion, gross-value added.

Coun Ben Bradley, Nottinghamshire Council leader, outside County Hall in West Bridgford.

But why, you might rightly ask, is this necessary?

Let us start with the figures…

Currently the East Midlands receives the lowest per-head investment of any area in England at £12,113, (10 per cent below the UK average, compared with £15,490 in London, 15 per cent higher than the UK average.

Both private and public sector investment is eluding the East Midlands and heading to Teesside, the West Midlands, South Yorkshire and elsewhere.

We are missing out because it is more complicated to do large-scale investment in our region than it is in the others.

Right now, if a business wants to invest in our region, who do they need to speak to?

The answer is lots of people.

Usually at least one district council, a county council, the local enterprise partnership, the local MP, the Chamber of Commerce. And all of them control different parts of the process, making any investment time consuming and cumbersome.

If you want to invest in Teesside, you phone the mayor, Ben Houchen.

He has an economic team constantly looking to support businesses and make the investment process simpler.

And he is well connected in Westminster, so if the investment needs the support of central government, he can pick up the phone to a minister and get that ball rolling.

We do not have that in the East Midlands, and it is holding us back.

We have so much potential; with our fantastic transport links, our manufacturing heritage, strong universities, and energy heritage which offer so many opportunities in our race to Net Zero.

We are the heart of the country, and should be top of any investor’s list of sites.

And yet we have barely scratched the surface of the high- skilled high-wage jobs we can deliver locally.

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An East Midlands Mayor would provide a unified approach to lobbying Government on behalf of the region due to their ability to bring together local MPs, third-party organisations, and the private sector to help deliver investment and jobs.

And bringing in a devolution deal will bring more money and powers to local leaders.

We will have more control locally in areas such as education and skills, public transport, infrastructure and employment.

And no local authority would lose jobs or powers through the creation of the Mayoral Combined Authority.

MPs from across the region must now make the case for a single and centralised leader presenting a united and coherent plan to deal with the unique challenges and diverse inequalities in the East Midlands that require localised solutions not a one-size fits all approach from Whitehall.

The region has already demonstrated how successful it can be when it works together with the announcement of the East Midlands Freeport, one of eight new freeports in the UK.

The Freeport based at East Midlands Airport, with sites at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station and South Derbyshire, will be the best-connected and greenest freeport in the county, generating up to 60,000 jobs and turbocharging the regional economy.

The Government has also invested hundreds of millions of pounds in towns deals across the East Midlands from Ashfield to Long Eaton, to Stapleford, and from Newark to Clay Cross.

But these successes need to be the rule rather than the exception and we need a permanent approach to investment and jobs, alongside a long-term plan to ensure our cities and towns are delivering growth and prosperity for decades to come.

We have been competing against neighbouring regions with one hand tied behind our back for too long.

Our region needs a coherent strategy on housing and regeneration, transport and infrastructure, skills and education, and the economy, which can only be provided by an East Midlands Mayor.

It is time to return powers to local leaders and unleash the economic powerhouse that is the East Midlands.