Four county councils in the East Midlands are currently exploring plans to share services, have powers devolved from Westminster and encourage government investment in the region, but all this will not involve the creation of a so-called ‘super council’.
Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill confirmed there were no plans for a super authority but said that he and his colleagues at the Conservative-controlled Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire county councils were seeing how they could work more closely together for the benefit of residents in the region.
A closer partnership, dubbed a ‘Strategic Alliance’, would also need the cooperation of the Labour city councils in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester and could see them submit funding bids to government for major transport improvements on roads such as the A46, which cuts through the Midlands.
The Strategic Alliance that would create a unified voice for the region would be a first step towards a future devolution deal, discussed by the Leaders of the four county councils, that would help boost the East Midlands’ economy.
Coun Hill said that the East Midlands needed to put its case more effectively to government to ensure that it did not miss out on investment heading to the West Midlands but that this was not a way of attempting to compete with the combined authority set up there in 2016.
He said: “Well I don’t think there are any plans for a super authority at all. What we’re actually doing is exploring activities where we can work together as county councils to see where we can potentially share services or indeed ask government to devolve some services down to the four councils.
“I’m certainly not in the place of trying to build a ‘super’ council. I don’t believe in regional government but I do believe in working with similar councils for the benefit of the residents of that area.
“The East Midlands is not doing very well in terms of government investment and we really want to make the case to government in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement that this time the East Midlands needs to have a fair crack of the whip when government is allocating resources nationally.”
In a joint statement, the County Council Leaders of Derbyshire (Coun Barry Lewis), Leicestershire (Coun Nick Rushton), Lincolnshire (Coun Martin Hill) and Nottinghamshire (Coun Kay Cutts) said: “We believe that we can achieve much more if we work together, particularly in the areas of connectivity, trade, investment and growth. A recent East Midlands Councils report showed that people in our area get the lowest Government spending on economic development and transport in the country, with rail expenditure in the region at just £91 per person, compared to £746 per person in London. This will remain the case unless we join forces and make our voice heard.
“We want to work together to grow our economy so that we build on our strengths and tackle our challenges. We would work with our LEPs and Chambers, and would be complementary to the Midlands Engine.
“The next stage in the plans will be to have further detailed talks to see how we can take the Strategic Alliance forward with a view to eventually being able to draw down powers and funding from Government.”
The Strategic Alliance, which would include the four counties along with the cities of Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, the Local Enterprise Partnerships and Chambers of Commerce, would focus on transport, infrastructure, jobs and strategic planning.
It is stated that this would ensure the East Midlands comes together to support the wider aims of the Midlands Engine and the Industrial Strategy as the Country moves towards Brexit.