Last week, along with nine other East Midlands MPs, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up to press the case for the East Midlands to be given even more clout and funding.
We already have a brilliant devolution deal agreed with the government, a deal that will see an initial £1.14 billion in additional funding and powers handed to our region from 2024, with more to come over the coming years.
This deal already means we’re at the front of the queue for new Investment Zones, bringing potentially billions in additional investment to our region particularly in areas like clean energy and advanced manufacturing, where our region has some real expertise and opportunity.
The Chancellor also made some big funding announcements for Mansfield, with a new Levelling-up partnership, trialled in other places like Grimsby and Blackpool, that will bring an additional £20 million more of government funding just to our town alone.
Clearly, all this investment is a big step forward. Offering us opportunities in areas like transport, skills and housing; allowing us to do things in a way that makes sense to those living and working in the East Midlands - not just to those in Whitehall.
However, at the same time all this fantastic investment is being announced for us in the East Midlands, existing combined authorities like Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are about to be catapulted much further ahead, as “trailblazers” for the future of English devolution.
In the letter to Michael Gove last week, my colleagues and I argue that the East Midlands shouldn’t be lagging behind other regions any longer. That we shouldn’t need to wait 10 years or more to benefit from the incredible autonomy and freedom awarded to the West Midlands and Manchester last month in the Spring Budget.
It’s clear that in order to properly 'level up' the East Midlands and for us to be competitive with other regions, Government can't allow Manchester and Birmingham to continue to disappear into the distance with the East Midlands constantly playing catch-up.
For my part, these conversations are important for another reason too; we all want more local clout and autonomy, but we also need to ensure that these new powers are used for good.
As a Conservative, I want to see "Levelling up" defined by conservative principles; innovation, enterprise, and offering more opportunity, not by the left-wing versions in Manchester and London, with congestion charges and anti-car policies that limit choice and make lives harder. I’m sure I’ve heard it said that with great power comes great responsibility.
We've asked the Secretary of State to consider this, and to equip our area with new opportunities for growth and investment that Manchester has had for 5+ years already, like new local trade and inward investment policy, on top of the exciting new deal we've already secured.
Our new deal and plans for a Combined Authority in 2024 are a great start, and they give us the opportunity to access more funding and local decision making in the future, but I’m desperate to ensure that we continue to accelerate forwards, and that Government continues to keep us at the front of the queue for the long term.