The Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council is calling for more transparency from larger authorities involved in talks about a new East Midlands "super authority".
The leaders of four county councils, including Derbyshire, and three unitary authorities, have met to discuss plans for a new combined authority that could take on many governmental powers across the region.
But Derbyshire Dales Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE used his council's Annual Meeting on Thursday (24 May) to tell fellow councillors that he had not been informed about the meeting between the leaders of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire county councils and the city unitary authorities of Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
Pledging to fight any moves to reorganise the current tiered structure of local government, Councillor Rose said:
“We will need to form a view on this matter if and when we are asked to do so, because at the moment the counties and unitaries are keeping all the discussions to themselves and will let us know in due course how they are getting on! I have made it clear and will continue to make it clear that this is not good enough.
"I have also said in principle we will look at any proposal for a combined authority which brings more power and money to the area in a constructive way, provided that no reorganisation is involved and the districts are fully engaged and are part of the process."
Pointing out that Derbyshire Dales had been one of the few districts prepared to support the failed Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire combined authority proposal, designed to lever substantial funding and greater freedoms from "the yoke of central government", Councillor Rose said any proposed reorganisation for a county as large as Derbyshire must be strongly resisted.
"You can be assured that I have not taken this lying down," he told fellow Dales councillors, "and have made it clear to those who ought to know better that this is a very unhelpful and counter-productive way to proceed. The thought that we could end up with a unitary county with or without Derby City is, in my view, ridiculous - but it is one we have to take seriously."
Councillor Rose also used his annual speech to the council - which can be viewed again on our YouTube channel - to update the meeting about Sheffield City Region combined authority, of which Derbyshire Dales is an associate member.
He had spoken with the newly elected Mayor of the combined authority, MP Dan Jarvis.
"It was a constructive conversation and he left me in no doubt that he values our involvement,” Councillor Rose said. “He has the unenviable task of bringing the warring parties together. I wished him well and I think he is a man we can do with business with."
Councillor Rose also used his speech to call for better representation of district councils on the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
"The Derbyshire districts have only one representative and this lack of adequate representation is still a sore point," he said.
Derbyshire Dales was in an "overlap" area with D2N2 and Sheffield City Region and had a seat on the Sheffield City LEP but no representation whatsoever on D2N2.
Councillor Rose added:
"There is currently a review of LEP boundaries being undertaken by the government and as part of that review the desirability of overlapping areas is being considered. D2N2 and Derbyshire County want to see the overlap abolished; Sheffield City and the five overlapping districts including ourselves do not, because whether we like it or not a large part of our area is within the Sheffield economic area and that is what it is all about."
In conclusion Councillor Rose said talk of local government reorganisation, combined authorities and squabbling over LEP boundaries were unwanted distractions, adding:
"Despite all this, we need to carry on doing well. Our residents are not interested in these topics at the moment, but unfortunately we have to be engaged."
Welcoming the creation of the District Council's Commercial Board, which he said would be of great benefit to the council, Councillor Rose finished by praising the work of retiring chief executive Dorcas Bunton.
"Dorcas Bunton has guided the council - members and officers alike - in such a determined but kind way over the last six years," he said, "and I take this opportunity of thanking her for all she has achieved for us and the significant progress the council has made in under her direction.
"I am also absolutely certain that our new chief executive, Paul Wilson, is ready to take us on the journey that lies ahead and help us face the many challenges - some of which I have touched on tonight - in the Derbyshire Dales way and, most importantly, in his way."