East Midlands leaders have told the Government they will “be ready” to enact the region’s £1.14bn devolution deal once a new bill is passed through Parliament.
And they say they are working on a timeline involving the region’s first elected mayor being voted in by May 2024.
It follows Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove visiting the region on Thursday (May 18) to discuss devolution plans with council leaders.
He visited Derby’s Infinity Park site to support the leaders of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire councils as the agreement edges closer.
The deal promises to move funding and spending powers from Government to local councils.
It will grant at least £30m every year for the next three decades alongside extra cash for projects in transport, education, the environment, housing and economic regeneration.
Ministers and leaders hope it will ‘level up’ the region and redress historic imbalances in per-head spending compared to neighbouring parts of the country.
Funding is already coming to the region as a result of the deal, with an £80m ‘Investment Zone’ confirmed in the spring budget to boost inward spending and offer tax incentives to attract businesses to the East Midlands.
And now Mr Gove has visited the region to discuss how he can support the four councils as they prepare for the devolution deal to come into effect.
Nottinghamshire County Council leader Ben Bradley (Con) says he is pleased with the progress being made and the “commitment from the Government” to ensuring the plans are delivered on time.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We’re now in a place where we’re literally building this combined authority.
“I’ve asked the Government to come and help us with these last steps and hurdles and Michael Gove came here to help us do that.
“It shows the commitment from the Government.
“But now we want to move to a place where we’re starting to talk not just about the structures but the investment we’re getting to bring in amazing jobs and improve our infrastructure.”
If there is no delay to the legislation, an election for the mayoral role is currently scheduled to take place in May 2024.
Cllr Bradley says he is confident leaders will be “ready to go” through work they are currently doing on the combined authority.
“This is the timeframe everybody is working to,” he said.
“Unless the bill is massively delayed for some reason, then it will be next year.
“Doing our work and building it now, rather than waiting for the legislation, means we’ll be ready to go.”
In a statement provided after the visit, Secretary of State Mr Gove said there are “huge opportunities” for the region.
He added: “It’s clear everyone involved is keen to drive this forward so we can grow the region’s economy and create better opportunities for local people.
“The Government is committed to delivering for the East Midlands, working with both the council and private sector partners, to bring in investment, jobs and new infrastructure to level up communities right across the region.”
Leaders are currently creating a combined council – made up of representatives from the city and county councils as well as business leaders – which will be in charge of the powers and funding.
This will be led by a mayor similar to Labour’s Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester.
However, the deal depends on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill passing through Parliament. It is currently being scrutinised by the House of Lords and, once approved, will create the legislation needed for the combined authority to be formed.