Agenda item

Levelling Up White Paper and Devolution Opportunities

The report of the Chief Executive is attached.


The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson presented the report of the Chief Executive give an update on the Levelling Up White Paper including how it could affect district councils with suggested timescales and next steps.


The Leader explained that Rushcliffe Borough Council was a member of the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Economic Prosperity Committee (EPC), alongside all the local authorities in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.  Council noted that the contents of the Levelling Up White Paper and the potential for a county deal, or combined authority for the area were discussed at those meetings. The Leader hoped that the work undertaken would enable local authorities to work collaboratively on various strands of work including the environment, economy, skills, land, and housing, supporting young people and transport. It was anticipated that a business case would then be presented to government for a “County Deal” for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.


The Leader stated that in order for the East Midlands to have the biggest opportunity for investment in the area, the highest level of devolved powers would have to be implemented which included having a directly elected Mayor across a functioning economic area.  The Leader advised that he was pleased to note that Nottingham and Nottinghamshire were mentioned in the Levelling Up White Paper as a pathfinder for the first round of county deals to be agreed. However, there were several areas for consideration to be debated and agreed, including the geography of a deal and the scope of what it would cover. The Leader provided the Council with the example of the N2 local authorities joining with the D2 authorities on a joint bid – covering the same geography as the Local Enterprise Partnership (D2N2) which would cover the population of 2.2 million.


Council was informed that the power to request and negotiate any of the county deal options set lay with the upper tier authorities and that district councils did not have the power of veto. However, the leaders of Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City Councils had expressed their desire to carry on full engagement with district councils, which could bring their influence and expertise to the table.


Councillor Robinson asked the Council to support the recommendations outlined in the report, as it was important for negotiations to move forward quickly. It was explained that the first areas to agree a county deal would be asked to put forward proposals later this year with agreement by the end of the year, and that in the case of a new Mayoral Combined Authority, elections could be as soon as May 2023.


In conclusion, Councillor Robinson noted the lack of investment in the East Midlands and stated that by agreeing to the recommendations in the report, the potential opportunities contained within the Levelling Up White Paper could be continued to be explored.


Councillor Edyvean seconded the recommendations in the report and reserved the right to speak.


Councillor Gaunt supported the levelling up white paper and the devolving of local powers, agreed that the East Midlands had been underfunded and hoped that its radical aims and missions would allow the East Midlands to return to pre-austerity levels.  Councillor Gaunt also asked how this was aimed to be achieved by 2030.


Councillor Jones supported the recommendations in the report and believed that devolution opportunities were important to attract extra income. Councillor Jones also supported the suggestion that the elected Mayor could replace the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Councillor Jones agreed with Councillor Gaunt’s statement that its aims and missions were ambitious and also stated that it was important that resources were kept at the lowest level.


Councillor R Mallender stated that the removal of the power of veto would take away the power of those living outside of cities. Councillor Mallender also advised that he disagreed with the first past the post method of election; however, despite this, he agreed that it was important for local authorities to work collaboratively on tackling the climate change crisis and believed that the devolving of powers would benefit residents and neighbouring authorities.


Councillor Thomas stated that another layer of government would provide more confusion to residents about the roles of the three tiers of Council’s in addition to their MP, Police and Crime Commissioner, the roles of the Development Corporation, the LEP and D2N2. However, Councillor Thomas noted that there was a huge financial incentive to participate in the continuation of devolution and for Rushcliffe Borough Council to use its influence to benefit its residents. Councillor Thomas also thanked the Leader and the Chief Executive for representing the Council on the Economic Prosperity Committee and stated that the Leake Independents would support the recommendations in the report.  


In response to the comments made by the Councillors, the Leader noted the success of combined authorities in areas such as the West Midlands and also assured the Council that district councils would still be involved in the decision-making process where possible, and that the Council would be kept updated on any progress made.


It was RESOLVED that the opportunities for enhanced devolution contained within the Levelling Up White Paper be acknowledged and that the Leader and Chief Executive continue to work with the other local authority leaders and chief executives in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire on any devolution bids and brings an update to a future Council meeting for further debate.

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