An anticlimactic build-up to the East Midlands mayoral elections
With the East Midlands mayoral elections approaching in May, it is exciting to see further devolved measures coming into place within the region. However, there appears to be little momentum about the topic, and electoral fatigue seems to have taken its toll on everyone.
Whilst many devolved mayors have had success in most northern cities, the same cannot be said for the East Midlands. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, can be seen as a Manchester God to some locals. There is something particularly ‘Manc’ about Andy Burnham that I admire. He embodies integrity and dedication, and I believe he is on the right side of politics, if such a position is even possible. The first East Midlands mayor has the potential to make an impact on the community to the same extent as their more northern colleagues, but that excitement is yet to be seen.
The East Midlands Combined County Authority is predicted to bring in over £38 million a year into the region, with devolved powers to the housing sector offering priority development sites. They will also be empowered to contribute to the facilitation of new housing construction in accordance with local housing priorities.
I’m not expecting this to be an easy journey. The sheer scope of the area involved will make this a challenging approach for most developers. The region’s varied demographics, history, political attitudes, and urbanisation mean approaches to development are greatly discrepant.
Born and raised in Chesterfield, a deindustrialised town in North-East Derbyshire, I have witnessed the direct impact of Thatcher’s legacy – still felt by many locals. A Labour safe seat, much of its deindustrialised history is evident with disused factories and mineshafts, and redbrick housing.
Somewhere along the lines this has contrasted with the rest of Derbyshire, due to the ‘rurality’ of the county. Derbyshire voted heavily Conservative in 2019, even unseating Dennis Skinner from his Bolsover seat, which he had held for 49 years. Communities have seen little investment over the years. Devolution may bring about this change, attracting opportunities for economic prosperity and integral opportunities for the development sector to thrive. Whether residents will be open to this remains to be seen as change is seen as the enemy.
And the first East Midlands Mayor is…
Current candidates include Claire Ward representing the Labour Party, Ben Bradley representing the Conservatives, and Matt Relf of the Independents. I would anticipate the first East Midlands mayor to be Labour, given the current government’s lack of support for promoting the Conservative agenda in the most positive light. Mayor Claire Ward, the title is yours.
As building affordable homes is a significant promise of Claire Ward’s campaign, development could really prosper. If handled badly, the region will miss out on possibly the most pivotal opportunity to transform the area. Let’s hope excitement and discussions increase over the upcoming months about the potential this change has.