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Combined authority plan could lead to higher council tax bills in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

todayApril 12, 2022 3

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Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire residents could see their tax bills increased through the creation of a new super authority across the four areas. The four authorities, which cover two cities and two counties, three of which are Conservative-controlled and one of which is Labour-led, are seeking to create a new combined organisation.

This authority, if approved, would be the third largest in England, overseeing 2.2 million people. A copy of a confidential and restricted bid to central government has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

This bid does not propose a full “scrap and merge” of the two city and two county authorities and deletion of the district and borough councils, but opposition to the plans suspect this is the direction of travel. The bid calls for a large number of extra powers to be given to the East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority (the East Midlands MCA) from central Government.

Read more: Nottingham shop worker rushed to aid of teen who was ‘stabbed in hip’

It calls for the combined authority to have a directly elected mayor to oversee the Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Derby and Derbyshire area. The bid calls for this mayor to have the power to introduce an extra precept – an additional section on your council tax bill – which could see residents across the two counties and two cities paying more every year.

Alongside this would be the power to use business rates gathered from across the two cities and two counties to fund services. It also calls for the new mayor to take on some of the powers of the police and crime commissioners for both counties and cities.

These duties are currently split between two directly elected PCCs, Angelique Foster in Derbyshire and Caroline Henry in Nottinghamshire. It appears as if the PCCs would retain their jobs through the plans but may cede some of their duties, in a bid to make it easier to tackle crime and justice across a wider area, and where issues cross boundary lines regularly.

In line with this, it has asked for a devolved fund to support community safety and to reduce domestic violence. The bid calls for funding for some services to be pooled into one pot from across the four authorities, with examples including transport, infrastructure, business growth, inward investment and strategic regeneration.

It calls for the ability to introduce bus franchising across the two counties and two cities, as is being rolled out across Greater Manchester, in which the authority takes control of the bus network in a bid to improve services and reduce fares. This would be a significant step up from the recent enhanced partnership plans that councils have formed with private companies, with franchising previously off the table due to the sheer monumental cost and potential legal battles.

The four authorities would like priority for a new rail partnership with Great British Railways, saying Derby is a “prominent” contender for the new headquarters and the East Midlands being the “rail capital of the UK”. They have asked for the devolution of adult education powers and the core adult education budgets in a bid to push improvements over a wider area and take some of the burden from Government and relevant authorities.

The councils have called for the super authority to have the power to form mayoral development corporations – such as a joint company that would seek to develop difficult disused sites in the region.Linking with these development aims, the super authority would like to have brownfield site funding devolved to it from central government.

This would enable the super authority to pool funding for the two cities and two counties and use it on key sites, instead of having the money ring-fenced to each area respectively.

The councils say: “The East Midlands area has a variety of brownfield remediation challenges – from post-industrial/former urban retail sites in our city centres, to former coal-fired power stations in our rural areas. We will therefore enter into discussions with government with the objective of securing a land remediation fund.”

In their bid, the councils say they would like the East Midlands MCA to have a strategic partnership with Homes England to collect affordable housing monies in a bid to accelerate the building of more, cheaper homes. The councils have bid for powers to oversee some public health issues, due to the success of work between the authorities during the pandemic.

Their bid says: “We will consider optimal ways in which the East Midlands MCA could effectively participate alongside local authorities in initiatives that improve health. At a minimum, we will proactively consider health as part of key strategies and investment decisions.”

The bid includes the powers to create East Midlands Enterprise Zones; the allocation of extra money to combat homelessness and rough sleeping; a devolved “life chances” fund to support social mobility; a devolved fund to improve cultural projects; and funding to cover the cost of mayoral elections.

It claims that the East Midlands has suffered through persistent under-investment.

The bid says: “If Government wants to drive change, and to level up the United Kingdom, then as a starting point it need look no further than our region that has historically received the least, and where residents historically have had the least opportunity to have a fair chance in life. We have the opportunity to grow and expand on areas where we are strong, like manufacturing, or where we have already started ambitious local programmes such as in developing skills, to further contribute to UK PLC.

“We also have the chance to intervene where we have historically struggled, to boost education, transform public services and improve life chances. This is Government’s levelling up mission, and it is also ours.

“We recognise the vital role that local government and local areas must play in delivering these outcomes, and we ask Government to equip us with the powers and tools to make it happen.”

The bid continues: “Persistent structural inequalities have had a direct economic and social impact on local people and communities, and the productivity of businesses across the East Midlands MCA area.

“Government’s own data demonstrates a long-term pattern of under-investment relative to the rest of the country – compounding and sustaining these problems.”

It details that “among the nations and regions of the UK, public spending per person is lowest in the East Midlands at £12,113 – 10 per cent below the UK average”.

The bid says a 17 per cent increase in funding would be required to close the gaps shown in high levels of poverty, poor social mobility and lagging productivity.

An injection of funds, through the new super council and extra powers, would mean the region could contribute an extra £9 billion a year to the UK economy, the bid says. The bid talks about the existing business expertise of Rolls-Royce, Alstom, Toyota and Boots and of the major tourism honeypots of the Peak District, Sherwood Forest and National Forest.

It talks of ongoing projects such as the cultural heart of Derby and Broadmarsh in Nottingham, along with three “world-class” universities based in the joint area. The bid talks of the plans for an East Midlands Freeport – aimed at creating thousands of jobs, the HS2 hub at Toton and plans to develop zero-carbon technology at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

Ultimately, it says the cities and counties “lead the charge” in numerous sectors but require funding and powers, through the new super council and its overarching mayor, to achieve more and to improve on years of underinvestment which have left troubling issues behind.

Written by: thehitnetwork

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