Two Conservative council leaders in the East Midlands have expressed concern that the new Tory mayor for the West Midlands might overshadow their region.
Leicestershire CC’s Nick Rushton and Lincolnshire CC’s Martin Hill are seeking reassurances attention and funding will not be concentrated on the West Midlands following Andy Street’s victory.
Before the election was announced the Conservatives pledged to invest a combined £392m in the Midlands through the local growth fund. The money will be used to boost businesses, improve transport links, and help improve workers’ skills.
On top of that, the government has committed to provide £4m to support the operation of the Midlands Engine partnership. While the Midlands Engine brings together 11 local enterprise partnerships, local authorities, and other partners, it is not a statutory body. A supervisory board made up of representatives from local authorities, businesses and universities work together to define the Midlands Engine’s ambitions and key themes that set the tone for what investment and energies should be focused on.
Cllr Rushton, who sits on the supervisory board, said he was “very interested in making sure” East Midlands leaders get “fair representation” and are given “fair weight to the West Midlands mayor”.
“We’ve already seen Andy Street posing with the prime minister and chancellor and we don’t want to be disadvantaged,” Cllr Rushton told LGC.
“The government is committed to the Midlands Engine and apparently they recognise we have done a good job but we need to counterbalance a directly elected mayor [for the West Midlands] who will be a powerful man.
“The government are super-chuffed [Andy Street] won, as I am, but we now need to make sure we don’t get forgotten in the east.”
Cllr Rushton said he wanted to bring together the leaders of Derby, Leicester, and Nottingham city councils, and Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire CCs to form a “cabinet-type affair” but added the intention was “not to counteract the elected mayor in the West [Midlands] but make sure we are remembered”.
Lincolnshire’s leader Cllr Hill, who also sits on the supervisory board, said he wanted to “establish” how Mr Street will “fit into the whole Midlands Engine agenda”.
He said: “On the assumption the Midlands Engine is still a priority [for the next government]… the mayoral combined authority in the West Midlands is a significant part of that but it’s not the whole part of it. So it’s up to us in the East Midlands to work with those in the West Midlands to come up with a common agenda.”