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Derbyshire council is set to pull funding for new board after missing out on key role

Derbyshire County Council’s Leader is expected to announce the authority is to withdraw over £150,000 of funding and its role as host in a new partnership board, which aims to give the county greater influence in the newly-formed East Midlands Combined County Authority.

Leader Barry Lewis, of the Conservative-led county council, had previously been the Chairperson of the Vision Derbyshire and D2 Economic Prosperity committees which have been replaced by the new Derby and Derbyshire Strategic Leadership Board with county, district and borough councils coming together to have a greater say in EMCCA-related matters.

However, after Labour-led NE Derbyshire District Council Leader, Cllr Nigel Barker, was appointed as SLB Chairperson at the the first SLB meeting, on May 16, the county council now plans to seek approval from its Cabinet to withdraw its agreed role as SLB Host Authority and to withdraw an overall, allocated £175,000 of funding which had been earmarked to support the SLB.

A council officer stated: “There is no longer advantage or value for money for the council in absorbing the management overhead that attaches to being the Host Authority – including the employing authority for the programme team – nor in being the only member council to commit new funding – up to a maximum allocation of £175,000 – which would provide for the majority of the costs of the proposed programme team.”

The council’s Cabinet will decide on Thursday, June 13, whether to approve the recommendations that the council withdraw its previously agreed role as Host Authority and that £156,324 of funding which had been returned to the council following the dissolution of the Vision Derbyshire Joint Committee will now not be allocated to the SLB.

If the proposed plans are approved, the council still aims to continue working with the SLB to meet priorities such as business, economy and ‘place’ and it will also consult with the SLB on matters relating to EMCCA where required as an EMCCA member.

However, the council officer feels the change in the appointment of Cllr Barker as partnership chairperson signals the intention of district and borough councils to assume control of the agenda and provide new leadership and direction for the board so the county council intends to keep its ongoing membership under review.

Although the council is planning to withdraw funding for the SLB, it feels it will still be able to consider making this funding available in the future to support a strategic partnership working with EMCCA.

Opposition Labour Leader, County Cllr Joan Dixon, has expressed dismay at the council’s proposals to withdraw as the SLB host authority and to withdraw funding for the board’s work.

She said: “Cllr Lewis forced through the creation of the role of Mayor and the SLB despite objections from Derbyshire residents. He wanted to be the Mayor and when he didn’t get that job he wanted to Chair the SLB instead, encouraging every district and borough council in the county to become a member.

“Yet now that he hasn’t got that role either, he’s taken his ball away. Cllr Lewis’s petulant outburst is letting the people of Derbyshire down.

“The Strategic Leadership Board brings all of the councils in Derbyshire around the table to work together and is the body which feeds into the Mayoral Combined Authority to bring investment into Derbyshire for regeneration, skills, housing and a greener environment.

“There’s £1.5bn [of EMCCA] funding available at stake here. That’s why I’m calling on Cllr Lewis to show some maturity and reconsider this reckless decision as ultimately the people of Derbyshire will be the losers.

“My district, city and borough colleagues and I will be working with [EMCCA] Mayor Claire Ward to ensure Derbyshire gets the investment it so desperately needs. That’s why the first thing a new Labour county council will do after next year’s council elections is to reverse this decision if Cllr Lewis goes through with his threat.”

Derbyshire councils have backed what is hoped to be a multi-billion pound money-spinning devolution deal with the launch of the new East Midlands Combined County Authority.

It has brought together four agreed authorities, Derbyshire County and Derby City councils, and Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City councils, under Labour’s newly-elected East Midlands Mayor Claire Ward while considering input from the newly-formed Derby and Derbyshire Strategic Leadership Board.

The new East Midlands Combined County Authority is expected to oversee more than two billion pounds of annual funding directly from Central Government over the next thirty years with the new devolution deal seen as part of the Government’s Levelling Up plans to attract better funding and investment across the country.

Councils across the East Midlands, including those in Derbyshire, will not be scrapped or merged under the devolution deal and they will still oversee many public services, but EMCCA will deal with broader issues like transport, regeneration and employment.

 

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