Concern over plans for a unified ‘metropolitan area’

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Leaders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire County Councils have expressed serious concerns over ‘secret and underhand’ plans by Nottingham and Derby City Councils.

The plans to create a ‘unified metropolitan area’ could see large areas of both counties – Amber Valley, Ashfield, Broxtowe, Derby, Erewash, Gedling, Nottingham, Rushcliffe and South Derbyshire – joined together into a huge new authority.
But, Mansfield, Shirebrook and Newark will not be involved in any plans which are said to have ‘enormous’ potential.
While the plans are said to strengthen the bond between the two cities and create ‘inclusive growth’ it could also lead to a major reshuffle of the local political system.
Since the documents were leaked on Thursday, Sherwood MP Mark Spencer has accused the city council of ‘cash grabbing’ and Councillor Jason Zadrozny, Ashfield Independents leader, has called the city council’s plan a ‘power grab’.
The plan which cost the two city councils thousands of pounds to produce found ‘the area already has some of the characteristics’ for a metropolitan area and the areas in the new metropolitan area ‘could really accelerate these economic benefits and be able to more effectively drive inclusive growth across the whole area’.
It also stated how HS2 could have a ‘transformational effect’ on the area.
Councillor Kay Cutts (Nottinghamshire) and Councillor Barry Lewis (Derbyshire) were informed about the plans for the first time on Thursday, days before the scheduled publication of the embargoed plan commissioned by the city councils.
Coun Cutts said: “This is a bombshell and has come completely out of the blue for the county council, sent to us just a matter of days before its official release. I have taken the decision, in the public interest, to release it into the public domain immediately.
“The report suggests that the city council wishes to borrow millions of pounds in order to bring their plans to fruition, a most dangerous tactic.
“Despite regular contact between the county and city, there has been no discussion, no consultation and no suggestion from the city council that this piece of work was being done. I feel let down – and so should the people of both counties and both cities. Only last week, I sat in the same room as the Chief Executive of Derby City and the Leader of Nottingham City at a D2N2 board meeting discussing a raft of joint economic initiatives, without any mention of this.
“The county council raised concerns with the city council back in September 2016, under the previous Labour administration when we were presented with a glossy document which had little substance. We asked for more clarity, we asked to be consulted. We got nothing.
“In February this year our officers asked again for more information, more clarity and we asked to be involved. Again, we got nothing and have heard nothing until this report today.
“Residents living in the county should be alarmed by this plan – and not just because of the underhand way it has been put together or that it has cost £100,000 of public money to commission. The report highlights that people choose to live in the county because of better educational standards, greater access to services such as libraries, day centres and youth centres and the overall quality of services. This report puts those things at risk for hundreds of thousands of county residents.
“To add insult to injury this report describes Gedling, Rushcliffe and Broxtowe as ‘hinterlands’ – which means ‘the land behind’. Is that what the city think about our communities? I fear also for what it could mean for areas such as Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Newark and Sherwood, which would be frozen out of this metro fantasy land.
“The report is misleading. The statistics are not based on Nottingham and Derby – they take in huge parts of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to try and justify a flawed argument.
“Tax payers have a right to have a say on any potential change of this magnitude. If the city are serious about taking over vast swathes of our county – turning communities like West Bridgford, Beeston and Hucknall into outer city limits – then the people deserve to know about it and be consulted.”
A spokesman from Nottingham City Council has said: “In April, Derby and Nottingham city councils launched the Metro Strategy.
“We then asked Metro Dynamics to explore the potential of the Nottingham Derby economy report, The Economic Case for the Derby-Nottingham Metro, is not due to be published until next week, at which point the two city councils will review the findings, and of course work together with other council colleagues. As part of the development of the Metro Strategy, county councils were consulted. We are happy to work with any councils that want to be involved in a coalition of the willing.”
Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero has said she will not comment on the plans as she has not been formally given them.
She said: “I don’t comment on leaked documents. If any formal proposals come forward which affect Ashfield, I will judge them on whether or not they benefit my constituents.”

‘This is a power grab by the city’

Leader of Ashfield Council, Councillor Cheryl Butler has also voiced her concerns over plans to create a unified metropolitan area across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that would include Ashfield.
She said: “I am disappointed that there has been no communication from the two leaders at Nottingham and Derby city councils, and that I learnt of the plans just prior to their publication.
“We will need to look at the plans in much more detail before we can comment on whether this could be a good thing for the district, but at this stage I am concerned that the plans don’t include Mansfield as well as Bassetlaw and Newark and Sherwood, as we are so close them in economic terms.”

‘Disappointed by no communication’

Leader of Ashfield Council, Councillor Cheryl Butler has also voiced her concerns over plans to create a unified metropolitan area across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that would include Ashfield.
She said: “I am disappointed that there has been no communication from the two leaders at Nottingham and Derby city councils, and that I learnt of the plans just prior to their publication.
“We will need to look at the plans in much more detail before we can comment on whether this could be a good thing for the district, but at this stage I am concerned that the plans don’t include Mansfield as well as Bassetlaw and Newark and Sherwood, as we are so close them in economic terms.”

‘It’s a cash grab by the council’

Mr Spencer who represents Hucknall which is currently part of the plan, has said: “It is a cash grab by the city council who want my constituents to pay their taxes.
“I have previously surveyed the people of Hucknall about joining the city and they overwhelmingly want to stay with Ashfield.
“They are happy where they are - I have to represent the view of the constituents.”
The plan which cost thousands to make did not consult Nottinghamshire County Council or the leaders of Ashfield District Council until it was ready to be published.
Mr Spencer said: “They (Nottingham City Council) were clearly doing it under the radar - they knew how people would react.
“They need to accept the city boundaries - they are determined to get us to fund their white elephant project.”
Mr Spencer has also said he will be meeting with County Council Leader Kay Cutts MBE about the matter.

‘I think it is unlikely to happen’

Mansfield’s MP, Ben Bradley, said: “It is very odd.
“What on earth is the district meant to do if support is dragged into the city - more than it already is?
“It doesn’t make sense - it is excluding Newark and Mansfield the two biggest towns in the county.”
Nottinghamshire County Council has since branded the plan as ‘misleading’ and has said it does not support it.
Mr Bradley said: “With what the council is saying since, I think it is unlikely to happen.
“To me the answer is not a metro structure but a unitary one supporting the whole county.”