Along with my fellow councillors of all parties, I am being stopped regularly by the public asking ‘What’s all this about Chesterfield leaving Derbyshire?’
Whilst I welcome interest in the important topic of devolution, it is regrettable that many of these conversations begin with such claims, generated by the misleading material recently published. I have no wish to be part of such ‘politics of fear’ as was seen in the recent UK referendum, creating ill-will among neighbours. The claim we are leaving Derbyshire is nonsense and the public deserve better.
I say this because my faith in the people of Chesterfield has been enhanced in recent weeks. Having put minds at rest that Chesterfield will proudly remain a Derbyshire town, I have been struck by the high quality of debate and engagement.
From chatting in the street to the numerous engagement opportunities we’ve made available, the majority of residents and businesses see a Sheffield City Region deal as good for Chesterfield and the future of our children and grandchildren.
The reasons for this are clearly set out in our ‘Your Chesterfield’ publication and on our website, including the benefits we’ve already seen such as securing the re-development of the Co-op building. When people get past the misinformation, they ask the same question as me, ‘why turn down the chance for more; more support for our businesses, more investment in housing and transport, more re-development of disused sites and more jobs and training for local people to take up those jobs?’. No other deals are available to bring such benefits and I have not been elected to see Chesterfield turn its back on opportunities and get left behind.
I understand the concerns and our website responds to these. But as I’ve been asking our residents, why on earth would I be round the table seeking to reduce services or accept lesser voting rights or to wait at the back of the queue for funding? I haven’t and won’t be allowing any of those things to happen.
I’ve also reassured people that local services run by their local councils will largely stay that way. This is about getting hold of powers and funding held in London, where there is little understanding of Derbyshire’s needs and opportunities. Having a directly elected mayor means accountability for those powers to people in
Chesterfield. Where changes are proposed – mainly relating to public transport – these are the same as those promoted by the county council until recently. I am baffled why in March it was fine to give powers to a mayor covering Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire but now the county thinks such changes are a bad idea.
Speculation regarding services such as fire and police is just that: pure speculation. These will remain Derbyshire services and I have told these valued partners the same thing.
Finally, I want to reassure readers that we haven’t got here by chance. The council
has built on previous consultation with an extremely comprehensive process in the interests of bringing the best to Chesterfield, because that is what the Derbyshire residents of Chesterfield deserve. Partnership means progress.
Leader, Chesterfield Borough Council.