Devolution offers ‘huge opportunity’ for businesses, says new East Mids mayor

Claire Ward

The new mayor of the East Midlands, Claire Ward, has told that she “can’t just wave a magic wand” and overturn years of underinvestment into the East Midlands – but insists there are “huge opportunities” for businesses if they back the newly-formed East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA).

Ward, the first directly-elected mayor of the East Midlands, triumphed in the poll held on 2 May. She described the campaign as “exhausting” and insists she was only confident of winning when she arrived at the count.

“The campaign occupied my every waking moment,” she said. “It was a very intense six weeks.”

Labour candidate Ward captured 181,040 votes, comfortably beating the Conservative MP for Mansfield and leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, Ben Bradley, who came in a distant second place with 129,332 on a turnout of 27.6%.

“The turnout was actually higher than I was expecting,” said Ward. “I think that’s a huge testament to the skills of the comms teams and local political workers to get the vote out.

“I think that once the idea of an East Midlands mayor becomes more established, then that figure will only rise.”

Ward says that her next four years as mayor is “only a start”.

“We have to realise and acknowledge the state the country is in”, she said. “I can’t just wave a magic wand and erase the fact that the East Midlands has been so poorly invested in over the years – and I think it’s valid to state that.”

Ward will now head up the newly-formed EMCCA and be in charge of a £4bn investment drive in the region.

Ward said that business owners and leaders have a lot to gain from an elected mayor.

She added: “I met with a lot of businesses during my campaign and spoke at the hustings arranged by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce. All of this shaped my manifesto and my plan for business. Devolution offers huge opportunities for businesses and I want to work side by side with them for the good of the region; this won’t be a top-down programme.”

Ward looked into the future when asked how she’d like to see the East Midlands in a decade’s time.

She said: “I want it to be a more productive region – and a greener region. We need to meet more targets in that area. I also want it to be the place of choice the green energy sector to come and grow.

“The East Midlands should also be a place where people have amazing opportunities when they come and visit. One of my immediate priorities will be to initiate a Visit East Midlands campaign and I’m looking forward to building on that.”

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...