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Derbyshire council leader dismisses claim he threw ‘toys out of the pram’ after withdrawing board funding

Derbyshire County Council’s Leader has dismissed an accusation that he had thrown his ‘toys out of the pram’ after he indicated the council was set to withdraw funding and its role as host of a new partnership board when he learned had missed out on a key role.

Leader Barry Lewis, of the Conservative-led county council, had been the Chairperson of the Vision Derbyshire and D2 Economic Prosperity committees which were dissolved to form the new Derby and Derbyshire Strategic Leadership Board to allow Derbyshire county, district and borough councils a greater say in the new Labour-led East Midlands Combined County Authority.

But after Labour-led NE Derbyshire District Council Leader, Cllr Nigel Barker, was appointed as SLB Chairperson at the the first SLB meeting, the county council has now responded by fulfilling its threat to withdraw funding and its role as the SLB’s host authority after the move was approved by the council’s Cabinet at a meeting on Thursday, June 13.

Cllr Lewis told the meeting: “Everyone in the room is aware of the circumstances of what happened at the last Strategic Leadership Board meeting and this apparently [happened] when I threw my toys out of the pram but to be fair it’s a county council-run board and it has been for some years.”

The county council leader referred to the authority’s key role in the former Vision Derbyshire and D2 Economic Prosperity committees and stressed that the new joint SLB committee’s aim is to work with EMCCA and help provide a mechanism for the involvement of district and borough councils.

He added: “We put in a considerable amount of resources and we put in a considerable amount of work with the districts and boroughs.

“If the districts and boroughs wish to run it that is fine and they have that prerogative and they exercised that and it’s only fair they pay.”

A council report stated there is no longer an advantage or value for money for the county council in absorbing the management overhead attached to being the host authority or in being the only member council to commit new funding of up to a maximum allocation of £175,000.

It also added that 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.

Subsequently, the council’s Cabinet decided 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.

Derbyshire County 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.

In the county council’s report, the authority indicated it still feels it may be able to consider making funding available in the future to support a strategic partnership working with EMCCA.

The SLB was to be funded by the county council with its share of business rates along with business rates from the districts, county and city councils with the city and county making a proportionally larger contribution.

Cllr Lewis told councillors at the SLB meeting in May that the county council will have a good working relationship with the new EMCCA Mayor Claire Ward but he did not think others had operated in a very professional manner.

But Labour-led Amber Valley Borough Council Leader, Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams, also said at the SLB meeting that he could not believe ‘people are just chucking their teddies out of the pram’ and that he had been ‘really appalled’ about the situation.

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.

Prior the county council’s Cabinet meeting, opposition Labour Leader, County Cllr Joan Dixon, 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.”

Cllr Dixon added that £1.5bn of funding is at stake with EMCCA and she would look to reverse the county council’s decision to withdraw funding and its role as host authority should Labour councillors take control of the county council after next year’s Local Election.

The SLB has been told it will need to reassess how it would fund itself going forward – after the county council’s decision – with other councils potentially having to contribute more money.

 

 

 

 

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