Bradley's plan for East Midlands mayor gets cool reception in Mansfield and Ashfield
Councils in Mansfield and Ashfield have refused to support calls to create a new regional authority for the East Midlands, complete with a mayor.
The authority, which would operate in a similar way to existing ones in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, is being pushed by Mansfield’s MP Ben Bradley.
In the House Of Commons, Mr Bradley hosted a debate, entitled Devolution for the East Midlands urging the government to “capitalise on the region’s enormous potential”.
"We need to have a single voice in the East Midlands, in order to improve services to communities and genuinely tackle inequalities in skills and health,” he said.
“In the wake of Covid-19, we need to think of the bigger picture and attract investment to our region.
"For too long, the East Midlands has been seen as a place you drive through on your way to somewhere. But we need to become the destination.”
The Conservative MP, who is also leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said devolution was NOT about reforming local government or reducing the number of local councils.
Instead it was about bringing all 28 councils in the East Midlands together under the umbrella of a mayoral combined authority.
"This presents an opportunity to plan and deliver things, such as economic development and transport infrastructure, across the numerous council areas in a more joined-up way,” Mr Bradley said. “To present a unified, regional voice to government much more effectively.”
However, the idea was given the thumbs down by Ashfield Independents, the ruling party at Ashfield District Council. And Mansfield District Council would not be drawn, saying it was too early to comment at this stage.
Coun Jason Zadrozny, council leader at Ashfield, accepted that “we have to look at different approaches in the East Midlands to get a fairer deal from government”.
Statistics consistently showed that the East Midlands was the worst supported region in the country in terms of investment.
However, Coun Zadrozny added: “I am not certain that creating another level of bureaucracy would improve things.
"Experience of other massive combined authorities in the country shows that they don’t deliver the infrastructure projects envisaged. Just ask Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, where government spending has gone down.
"It would also lead to higher council tax because combined authorities are funded by extra levies, paid by taxpayers.
"If local Conservatives are serious about trying to attract extra investment into our region, they would do worse than consult Ashfield Council.
"Our team has just secured a promise of £62.6 million of regeneration money. This is the biggest successful bid to the government’s Towns Fund in the country, and the biggest investment secured by a council in this region for years.”
Meanwhile, business leaders were reluctant to commit themselves on the idea, preferring to focus on the need for more investment.
Scott Knowles, chief executive of the East Midlands Chamber, said: “It’s not for the private sector to tell the public sector how to organise itself.
"However, what business wants to see is the drive for economic prosperity at the heart of government, whether that’s nationally, regionally or locally, alongside increased efficiency and productivity.
"Any substantial changes to government structures must result in the East Midlands receiving a greater level of investment in order to enhance the region.”