Stricken council set to cling on to tram network following devolution

Embattled Nottingham City Council will hold an Extraordinary members meeting tomorrow (December 7) to decide on whether to back becoming a “constituent member” of the East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA) – and has revealed that it is unwilling to cede powers over the city’s tram network after an Mayor for the election is agreed next May.

The creation of the EMCCA has the backing of the council, but has not been formally voted on. The meeting will also be asked to recommend that current council chief executive Mel Barrett is appointed as the returning officer for the EMCCA.

Significantly, the power to decide policy on transport services across the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire devolution zone will be consolidated into EMCCA, Nottingham’s tram network will not – and will remain the responsibility of Nottingham City Council until well into the next decade.

The Nottingham tram network is currently operated under a PFI contract, which was let by Nottingham City Council and which runs until 2034.

A statement in Thursday’s council meeting agenda reads: “The contract includes a number of obligations that are the responsibility of Nottingham City Council, which would need to be unconditionally and irrevocably guaranteed by the Council (or a Minister of the Crown) in the event of transfer.

“This would bring very significant risks to Nottingham City Council that it is not in a position to accept, and so it has been agreed, in discussion with Government, that the tram will not form part of the Devolution Deal whilst the PFI contract is in place. However, this will not preclude strategic planning for extending the tram as part of strategic transport planning for the region.”

The meeting comes a week after Nottingham City Council issued a Section 114 Report – a blunt admission that it won’t be able to deliver a balanced budget for its 2023-24 financial year.

The Section 114 Report means the council will be cutting all spending bar that which it is legally obliged to carry out.

The devolution deal that will see the EMCCA come into being next year, with a newly-elected East Midlands Mayor, include an investment package that is worth more than £4 billion, including a £1.14bn investment fund and a new City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement of £1.5bn over a 30 year period.

The new Mayor will be chosen by an election scheduled to run on May 2 2024.