Ben Bradley MP and 9 Conservative MPs from the East Midlands have told the government that it is allowing levelling up to become “defined by left-leaning politicians that are least capable of capitalising on what it offers.”
In a letter to the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, organised by Ben Bradley MP (who is also leader of Nottinghamshire County Council), all ten backbench East Midlands MPs criticised the imbalance of powers being handed to the East Midlands compared with powers being granted to Labour’s Andy Burnham under the new Levelling Up Bill.
The MPs said that under the new Bill, the East Midlands “will still have fewer powers than the West Midlands did in 2017, and fewer than Greater Manchester did in 2014,” and that “our constituents should not have to wait years for Westminster politicians decide to ‘unleash the potential’ of devolution in our region. We need access to opportunities now - opportunities that Manchester and Birmingham secured years ago.”
The East Midlands MPs are demanding that “a blueprint for a similar transfer of powers to the East Midlands Combined Counties Authority must be set out before the Levelling Up Bill becomes law, to bring the opportunities for East Midlands residents in line with those of other regions,” adding that “our constituents cannot afford to wait.”
The MPs said that “Andy Burnham’s proposals for a workplace parking levy and a ‘clean-air-zone’ are the very opposite of what Red Wall communities need during a cost-of-living-crisis, and fly in the face of our vision for post-Brexit Britain. It’s vital that the Government immediately empowers other regional authorities of England to lead by example, rather than allowing Andy Burnham to continue acting as a “trailblazer”.”
Ben Bradley, MP for Mansfield and leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, who organised the letter said:
“My fellow Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Council leaders have already secured a £1.4bn deal for the East Midlands as part of the East Midlands Devolution Deal, which is great news and will do so much good for so many.
“But I am concerned that if we delay handing these further powers to regions like the East Midlands, then the government risks creating a two-tiered system of devolution that discredits the whole project.
“The sooner the East Midlands is given the same powers as Greater Manchester, the sooner we can start tackling the region’s most pressing challenges and show those voters that backed us for the first time in 2019 that we are still on their side.”