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Discussing Regional Growth and Devolution with East Midlands Combined County Authority

by Shannon Walsh


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We all recognise that Devolution will empower local authorities with greater freedoms and flexibilities, enabling councils to unlock regional growth. A key part to this is ensuring there is the right leadership in place to seize on the opportunities that devolution could bring.

Keeping this in mind, Dino Christodoulou and Kathryn Reed hosted a roundtable on delivering regional growth in the East Midlands. From having recently supported the four upper tier authorities in the East Midlands to recruit an interim leadership team for the Combined County Authority, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the unique opportunity that faces the region and provide a platform for those leading it forward alongside their council partners. The key speakers at the event were Mark Rogers, Interim Chief Officer, and Damien Dacey, Interim Director of Devolution, of EMCCA, and the webinar was attended by many leading regeneration and place directors from across the country.

Several months into the newly formed team, Mark and Damien wished to share their learnings and insights with the wider place and regeneration community, alongside Tile Hill, with the intention of sharing best learnings & best practice and connecting individuals from across the country who are either on their devolution journey already or working hard to make it a reality. Those who attended heard more about the devolution deal in the East Midlands, where Mark articulated the geographical scope, population, and economic landscape of the region. It is an area that covers Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, two cities and multiple districts and boroughs, and is poised to become the first combined county authority.

The region has unique challenges and opportunities presented by the region's mix of urban, town, and rural areas. Consequently, the region has to be understood in a specific economic and social context. For instance, the region is strong in manufacturing, aerospace, space technology, automotive, and life sciences, but it also has deep-rooted challenges, including productivity gaps, historically low public spending, social exclusion, and inequality across the entire region.

Participants talked through the need for strategic coherence, how to increase internal capacity and the importance of public awareness and engagement. Mark and Damien outlined the need to plan for both day one but also for the long-term trajectory of any new institution, addressing economic, social, and democratic aspects. In the proposal for the EMCCA, the case was made for how it could play a positive role in enhancing the region’s cultural opportunities.

The roundtable guests also discussed the important role of combined authorities in economic growth given their ability to provide scale, strategy, and greater certainty, and the importance of an elected Mayor as a key point of contact and voice for any devolved region. This was to ensure that there could be effective engagement with stakeholders and sustainable economic growth.

Tile Hill are proud to have worked with the East Midlands region, not just on this campaign, but previous campaigns for the constituent authorities. Our passion for helping our clients build brilliant and diverse teams sits at the centre of this, and a desire to use our network to unlock best practice is the sector is a driving force for organising webinars such as this. Having supported EMCCA and its local authorities, we have an ever deeper understanding of the talent that sits in the sector that can unlock and supercharge these opportunities. As Mark and Damien highlight, each region is different and will require different leadership. But what will be consistent is the need for those with skills in working as part of a complex system, working with different levels of local, regional and national government and fostering strong partnerships. It requires leadership dexterity and emotional intelligence to handle the nuances of local dynamics. Importantly in the formation stages, it requires those with a strong focus on governance, those who can establish processes and procedures, and those who can unite distributed teams behind a clear, ambitious, and impactful vision.

As part of our commitment to supporting leadership in the public sector, this roundtable inaugurates a series of discussions on regional growth and devolution. We welcome your input to shape the forthcoming conversations by actively participating in defining themes for the next session. Moreover, please engage with us regarding your workforce plan, capabilities, and capacity, allowing us to explore the most effective ways to support your objectives.


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