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East Midlands Mayor Claire Ward vows to turn region around amid ‘massive challenges’

The new mayor of the East Midlands has vowed to address the region’s “massive challenges” after being elected in an historic poll.

Labour’s Claire Ward was elected on Friday, May 3, with a 40 per cent share of the total number of votes cast across the region.

The Labour Party’s victory in the East Midlands was replicated across the country, with the Conservative Party’s council seat losses numbered in the hundreds.

Cllr Ben Bradley, the current leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and Mansfield’s Conservative MP, was left “disappointed” with the result and said his campaign had been up against a difficult tide nationally.

However Ms Ward said the result had shown people in the region believed the “country was broken”, the region had “massive challenges”, and they wanted change.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about her new position as mayor, she said: “We know the combined authority is very new, so there is a bit of work to do on that to make sure we have got the right people in place to help us to be able to deliver that change I’ve talked about and which people have elected me to do.

“People are not expecting miracles. They know our country is broken. They know our local government is broken right across the region we have massive challenges.

“But they wanted somebody who could start to turn that around and that I think is the reason why people responded so well to our message of ambition.”

Ms Ward was first elected as MP for Watford at the age of 24 in 1997 and moved to Nottinghamshire after losing her seat in 2010.

She became a non-executive director of Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 and was appointed chairwoman in October 2021.

It is understood there will be a brief handover period but Ms Ward will be leaving this role as soon as is feasible.

Ms Ward vowed to act as an accountable mayor, while also bringing more investment to the region on top of the promised £1.14bn which comes as part of the devolution deal.

The deal was signed by Derbyshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council back in November 2022, in a bid to bring more powers into local hands.

These devolved powers from Westminster will help the newly-elected mayor better decide what happens with transport, housing, skills, education, the economy and net-zero strategy.

She will act as the figurehead for the newly-formed East Midlands Combined County Authority.

“The accountability will be there, there will be opportunity for the mayor to continue to be questioned and take part in events with citizens right across our region,” she added.

“But it is also about being the champion for this region. I will be the person who stands up for us, who shouts out for us, who makes the case for more investment. I am not prepared to accept just this deal. It is just the start.”

Compared to Ms Ward’s 181,040 votes, Conservative Ben Bradley received 129,332 votes.

Cllr Bradley, the current leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and MP for Mansfield, said he believed his party had run a strong campaign in the East Midlands despite a “difficult tide” nationally.

“I trust [Ms Ward] will give your absolute best and I look forward to working with all colleagues who want to do more and use those powers for the betterment of our local residents,” he said.

“Obviously I’m hugely disappointed in the result on a personal level, having spent two and a half years really trying to work to get us these powers, to get us this support and this investment for our region.

“But I know one way or another as a result of that , as a result of this new clout we have, as a region we will be better off.”

The Green Party’s Frank Adlington-Stringer managed to hold off Reform UK’s Alan Graves, painting a different picture to that of the re-branded Brexit Party’s popularity in the national polls.

He secured 50,666 votes, coming third, compared to Derby Mayor Mr Graves’s 49,201 votes.

Mr Adlington-Stringer told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It shows we are the number one contester for an alternative vote, a strong force to be reckoned with and a movement.

“This is the first-ever mayoral election, it is the first time we have contested an election of this size, and we have come above national trends for the Greens.

“And we have shown old Reform that hope wins over hate every time. It is the beginning of the Greens in the East Midlands.”

Matt Relf, who stood as an Independent, said he was pleased with what he’d achieved off his own back but was disappointed not to have won.

Mr Relf, who has held elected office on Ashfield District Council for almost five years, secured 23,359 votes in total to come fourth.

He did, however, manage to beat Reform UK in the Ashfield-specific mayoral poll to come third.

In Ashfield he received 3,570 votes, after Mr Bradley and Ms Ward.

Mr Graves ended up with 3,532 votes to come fourth in Ashfield district, where the current MP, Lee Anderson, sits under the Reform UK banner having defected from the Conservative Party.

“Lots of people have said I’m clearly the strongest candidate, but without the party machine, I’ve not successfully got my message out there,” Mr Relf added.

Mr Graves did not attend the final results at the Nottingham Tennis Centre on the day, but had attended the Derby count at Derby Arena.

The Derby City councillor argued he disagreed with the mayoral role, and had been hoping to get elected to appoint a legal team and remove the mayoral post in his first two years.

Helen Tamblyn-Saville, representing the Liberal Democrats, secured 15,970 votes.

The Liberal Democrats had also raised issues with another level of government in the appointment of the mayoral position.

However, Mrs Tamblyn-Saville said she had stood to “be that voice” for those who shared her party’s ambitions and values.

The turnout for the mayoral election was 27.6 per cent.

The results in full are below:

Frank Adlington-Stringer, Green Party: 50,666

Ben Bradley, Conservative Party: 129,332

Alan Graves, Reform UK: 49,201

Matt Relf, Independent: 23,359

Helen Tamblyn-Saville, Liberal Democrats: 15,970

Claire Ward, Labour Party: 181,040

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