D2N2 LEP Chair, Elizabeth Fagan, shares her thoughts on the strategy and plans for East Midlands devolution, on track to happen in Spring 2024
“I wanted to take some time to reflect on the momentous milestone that has recently been achieved with the granting of Royal Assent for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill last month.
On 26th October 2023, the Levelling Up Bill achieved Royal Assent in Parliament, paving the way for the establishment of the new East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA) in Spring 2024. The EMCCA will be the first combined authority that will encompass two cities – Derby and Nottingham, and two counties – Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and it will be a game-changer in so many ways for our region.
The East Midlands devolution deal, agreed with Government ministers in August 2022, would see the D2N2 region (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham & Nottinghamshire) benefit from £1.14 billion of funding to invest in local projects relating to transport, education and skills, housing, the environment and economic development.
Derbyshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council (the four Upper Tier authorities in our region) will now decide whether to move forward with the devolution plans, with decisions expected in early December.
D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been working closely with the four Upper Tier authorities to prepare for devolution and the establishment of the new EMCCA. Drawing on our experience of convening policies such as low carbon, economic growth, and people and skills strategy across our region, we’ve been playing a supporting role in the setting-up process.
The new EMCCA will operate across the whole of the current D2N2 LEP footprint and, in the same way that the LEP currently does, will be in the unique and privileged position to act as a convener, and a strong unified voice across the region, and for the region.
Under a new directly-elected Mayor, set to be chosen by the 2.2 million citizens living in the region in early May 2024, the EMCCA will receive new powers and funding from which the whole region will benefit in terms of status and opportunity. It will be similar to the combined authorities already in place in regions such as London, Manchester and the West Midlands. All these areas have already followed the devolution route and have mature, established authorities that are uniquely placed, as the EMCCA will be, to work with the many stakeholders in their regions to present a unified voice with strong negotiating powers in their conversations with the Government in Westminster.
Over the past 10 years, D2N2 LEP has achieved much for our region and our particular focus has been on low carbon, skills and careers, economic growth and inclusion. We have helped to fund many capital projects, such as SmartParc in Derby, a unique business park promoting low carbon advanced food manufacturing, Middleton’s Yard in Worksop, which provides managed office space for SMEs, start-ups and micro-businesses, coupled with a business support service for occupants, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) Midlands in Derby, that specialises in emerging nuclear technology areas and acts as a regional hub to help Midlands-based manufacturers enter, and win work in, the nuclear supply chain.
We, with the Leicester and Leicestershire LEP, led the successful bid to establish the East Midlands Freeport, the only inland Freeport in England, set up earlier this year to drive growth in our region in advanced manufacturing, bio-manufacturing, logistics and low carbon industries, and to stimulate investment into sectors such as automotive, space and satellites.
Our leadership of Skills Bootcamps (vocational courses of up to 16 weeks for adults aged 19+ to upskill participants in the areas where employers have skills shortages) has so far secured four waves of the programme, bringing in over £11 million of additional skills funding to D2N2 and the wider East Midlands area. Given the vast array of career opportunities in our region built on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), we’ve made the promotion of STEM and low carbon careers a priority in our Careers Hub and Skills Bootcamps programmes. Indeed, our Careers Hub now extends into Primary schools, helping to drive and champion career-related learning from an early age, something which is so important in raising aspirations and awareness of the many career options and pathways across our region.
Another crucial opportunity for our region is in the area of low carbon. The East Midlands region is perfectly set up to move away from its roots as the former Megawatt Valley, to become a new centre of low carbon energy production. The wheels are in motion to realise this ambition, most notably with the recent launch of East Midlands Hydrogen. As lead partner, together with Cadent, we’ve established a consortium of businesses across the whole hydrogen ecosystem of production, distribution, storage, end user and supply chain. This exciting new partnership is set to become the UK’s largest inland hydrogen cluster, with a clear purpose to accelerate the development of, and attract investment to, this growing hub of concentrated hydrogen demand, production and distribution infrastructure in the East Midlands.
The new EMCCA will be vested with new powers to lead transport and the Adult Education Budget for the region. This is a new, devolved, responsibility and as such will be hugely impactful for our region.
In transport, the new combined authority will build on the work of the LEP, where we’ve been an active player with Midlands Connect, working together on the development of our local area transport plan; this has been particularly important following the recent announcements about HS2.
With regard to People and Skills, as my Board colleague Professor Edward Peck CBE, Vice-Chancellor & President – Nottingham Trent University, says:
“The EMCCA will be well-placed to build on the work of D2N2 LEP in analysing local skills and labour market intelligence to identify priorities and co-ordinate activity. Given that our skills needs are rapidly changing with the onset of new technologies, the emphasis will continue to be on doing so with agility and pace. It is vitally important to collaborate with partners across the skills and employment systems in order to tackle the barriers to employment, close the educational attainment gap, and ensure that students with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities are given effective and appropriate support in their aspirations for their best next steps.”
As an important part of our core purpose, we in the D2N2 LEP have been strongly representing the voice of business over the past decade. From micro-businesses, through to SMEs and leading global companies, D2N2 LEP has worked closely with business leaders and owners to understand their views, champion their interests and represent their voice in our discussions with local authorities, politicians, universities and colleges in our region.
Our businesses across our region are the lifeblood of our economic growth and provide jobs and career development opportunities for our citizens. Indeed, our region has many unique strengths, being the home of many leading global players in the areas of automotive, rail, aerospace, health, bio-technology, nuclear and advanced manufacturing. The new EMCCA must continue to champion the voice of our businesses in the development of the new organisation, and ensure a strong economic and inward investment strategy for low carbon economic growth, skills, transport and housing,
To conclude, I am really enthused by the potential that the establishment of the EMCCA will bring to our region and I am delighted that, with Royal Assent for the Levelling Up Bill now granted, and therefore the legal governance now in place, plans can push ahead and be brought to fruition. I will be leading our Board and the D2N2 LEP to amplify the voice of business, to ensure that our business leaders can be active participants, and ensure that the voice of our universities and colleges plays an integral part in the preparations for the new EMCCA.
I really cannot emphasise enough how exciting and momentous the strategy and plans for East Midlands devolution are, and I’m confident that the LEP Board, businesses, colleges and universities in our region will continue to play an active role in the devolved administration. To sum up, I’m hugely excited about what lies ahead for our region.”
Elizabeth Fagan CBE
Chair, D2N2 LEP
For media enquiries, contact:
Head of External Affairs, D2N2 LEP