The leaders of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire CCs have hit out at what they claim are “secret and underhand” plans by their city council neighbours to expand their boundaries and create a “metro-fantasy land”.
Derby and Nottingham city councils commissioned a report to demonstrate that they, along with a number of neighbouring districts, operate as a functioning “metro-economy”.
The report, which recommends the two councils and the districts in their “metro-area” should seek devolved powers and funding from government, was shared with the county councils on Thursday ahead of planned publication on Monday.
However, the leaders of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire decided to publish the report immediately “in the public interest”, claiming it had come “completely out of the blue”.
Nottinghamshire leader Kay Cutts (Con) said: “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.”
The report indentifies three of Derbyshire’s five districts – Amber Valley BC, Erewash BC and South Derbyshire DC – and four of Nottinghamshire’s seven districts – Ashfield DC, Broxtowe BC, Gedling BC and Rushcliffe BC – as being in the Derby-Nottingham metro area, based on their economic characteristics.
It recommends the metro area develops a case for devolved investment and powers from government and agree principles for collaborative working, involving the county councils. It also proposes existing work to develop shared services between Nottingham and Derby should be expanded to include other councils in the metro-areas.
While the report does not propose the two city councils formally expand their boundaries it says “reform and collaboration need to operate at various levels and across different service areas”. The counties said the cities sought to “expand their boundaries” over “vast swathes” of the region.
Cllr Cutts said the proposals put the quality of county services, such as education and libraries, at risk.
She added: “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…
“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 & Sherwood which would be frozen out of this metro fantasy land.”
In response, Derby and Nottingham said they had launched their “metro-strategy” in April and the county councils had been consulted.
In an interview with LGC last month Nottingham leader Jon Collins (Lab) revealed the Metro strategy could be extended to other parts of the East Midlands after plans for a North Midlands mayoral devolution deal collapsed last year.
The city councils said they would review the report’s findings following its formal publication next week.
A spokesperson for Derby said: “In global terms, Derby and Nottingham are two relatively small cities; but combined, the Derby/Nottingham urban area is one of the top 30 population centres in Europe.
“Together, we will be able to ‘punch above our weight’ when it comes to establishing a national presence and international reputation.”