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Derbyshire set to form first non-metropolitan combined authority

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Derbyshire CC is preparing to submit an application to become the first non-metropolitan area in the country to form a combined authority.

The county council’s leader Anne Western (Lab) told LGC she wanted the combined authority to gain ‘total place’-style devolutionary powers and funding.

The combined authority would consist of Derbyshire County Council, Derby City Council, and the eight district councils in the county.

Cllr Western told LGC the area was “progressing really quickly” with its plan and expected to become the first non-metropolitan area to submit a combined authority application to the Department for Communities & Local Government.

Asked whether any consideration had been given to forming a unitary council, Cllr Western said: “I don’t see the value of that. It will just be two, three, four years wasted…I would rather spend the time we have got, starting from day one, thinking about delivery.

“The benefit of a combined authority is you get enough size to be strategic but you can be local as well. It’s got fluidity and flexibility.”

Cllr Western said the decision to form a combined authority was made because the council had accepted it would not “win the argument” for local government to receive more money.

“It’s about getting better and more effective at spending what there is,” she said.

Cllr Western said she did not support the directly elected mayor model championed by chancellor George Osborne.

“I think it’s a bit of a gimmick,” she said. “I don’t think it would work in an area like Derbyshire at all.”

Meanwhile, neighbouring Nottinghamshire CC is in the process of forming a county-wide combined authority.

Nottinghamshire leader Alan Rhodes (Lab) told LGC talks were underway with the city council and seven district councils about creating a combined authority.

“It seems to be the only game in town,” he said. “It makes common sense … we are very happy with that relationship.”

Cllr Rhodes said he would like to be given tax-raising powers as well as more control over spending on skills.

Norfolk CC leader George Nobbs (Lab) told LGC that, although he had not yet spoken to his party or other councillors about what devolution might mean for the area, he would personally be keen to explore the possibility of creating “any East Anglian authority” if there was an appetite from others to do so.

Norfolk and Suffolk CC had a history of joint working in relation to waste and sharing some middle management staff, he said.

However, Cllr Nobbs thought any offer of devolution should be “uniform” across all local authorities or it would be “pick and mix nonsense”.

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