Ben Bradley is the MP for Mansfield and the Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council.
It’s fair to say my first 100 days as leader of Nottinghamshire County Council have been busy – but I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
In fact, my new administration has hit the ground running when it comes to key projects which we believe will ultimately improve the lives of people who live and work in the county.
When I was elected leader in May, I immediately set out the priorities which I believed would help to breathe new life into Nottinghamshire’s economy as we continue on the road to recovery from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
Voters told us in no uncertain terms, in the run-up to May’s council elections, what improvements they wanted to see where they lived, with many people voicing concerns over road maintenance and potholes in particular.
Potholes have been an age-old problem and this is an issue that can’t be fixed overnight. One of the first things I did as a leader was set up a cross-party Highways Review Panel to look at how we repair and maintain the county’s roads. We’re listening to our residents and are ready to act.
Our highways play a crucial role in unlocking employment and development opportunities in the county to bring in millions of pounds to the region’s economy. Economic Development is perhaps also the most obvious area where I can make use of my ‘twin hats’, as an MP and as a Council Leader. The ability to go straight from local discussions down to Westminster and raise these plans and proposals directly feels like an important one.
We have already secured £24.3 million from the Department for Transport for major road improvements along the A614/A6097 between Ollerton and East Bridgford, much needed to ease congestion and boost access to more than 1,300 new homes along the route.
We’re working on some major regional investments; our Freeport, our Development Corporation, and of course the ongoing discussion around the Integrated Rail Plan and HS2. All key for our region and our county, and all clearly crossing over that blurred line between my two roles.
Questions have obviously been asked as to whether I could take all this on in addition to my work as Mansfield MP.
From a personal point of view, it has been exceptionally rewarding so far. The initial challenges were mainly managing the diary and getting the correct structures in place as well as who replies to the emails that come in to different accounts. With those initial challenges solved, it’s fair to say it has been manageable so far, though now the physical return of Parliament obviously presents a new challenge.
One of the reasons why I chose to commit my time locally, rather than pursue a career path as a Minister, is because I have young children and don’t want to be in Westminster five or six days a week. I love going down to Parliament to represent my constituents, but I don’t want to climb that career ladder right now. I am committing that time locally instead, which means I’m both able to go home at night and see my children a bit more often – even though I am working long days – and also to genuinely deliver for local people as a local decision-maker.
Having passed the 100-day leadership landmark a few weeks ago, I can honestly say I now feel more informed and effective as an MP than ever before, because I’m delivering these services rather than just hearing about them.
In fact, having the dual role enables me to take county council matters to the heart of Government to potentially unlock investment opportunities to bring significant economic benefits to Nottinghamshire, and to my Mansfield constituents too.
That is exactly what we are doing: knocking on the doors of Ministers asking for further support for our area.
I recently met Boris Johnson to call on the Government to back our ‘levelling up’ agenda, which would pave the way to deliver 84,000 jobs, up to 10,000 homes, and add £4.8 billion to the Nottinghamshire and regional economy.
I’ve used my unique position to push Government hard on key issues for our area, like the East Midlands Freeport and Development Corporation which can help to create tens of thousands of jobs; like our plans for Toton which need to be a key part of whatever the decision on HS2 looks like, and on the opportunities to devolve powers down from Whitehall so we can take those decisions in Nottinghamshire to benefit local people.
As I’ve made clear, we’re not hanging around in our drive to deliver on our pledges to galvanise the county and make it an even better place to live, work, and visit. In Westminster Hall this week I promised to go and camp out on the lawn outside MHCLG to get talks with Government going on these issues, and I mean it. Let’s get on with it!
And as part of our commitment to do this, we have also launched our biggest ever consultation process to hear residents’ views on the county’s future.
The Big Notts Survey will ensure that we are tackling the issues most pressing to them and will ultimately help us and our partners to make Nottinghamshire a more successful and vibrant county. Residents views on our services; on children’s services, on social care and on highways, will shape our plans.
I am extremely honoured to be leader of the county council and I’m fully aware that the hard work has only just begun, ahead of more key decisions on a whole range of issues being made this autumn as we continue to rebuild after the challenges of Covid-19.