Harborough council leader tells Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby: ‘You could cost this region £1 billion’

But Sir Peter has fired back with both barrels as he branded talk of £1 billion being on the table as “pure fantasy”

By Red Williams
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 4:06 pm
Furious Harborough council leader Phil King has told Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby – you could cost this region £1 billion.
Furious Harborough council leader Phil King has told Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby – you could cost this region £1 billion.

Furious Harborough council leader Phil King has told Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby – you could cost this region £1 billion.

Cllr King accused the city’s Labour mayor of denying over 1 million people in Harborough, Leicestershire and Rutland the massive chunk of Government cash over the next 30 years.

The Harborough District Council chief slammed Sir Peter for “blocking” moves to forge ahead with regional devolution by creating a new local combined authority.

But Sir Peter today fired back with both barrels as he branded talk of £1 billion being on the table as “pure fantasy”.

Cllr King told the Harborough Mail: “I am very angry about this.

“Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are moving ahead with discussions with Government about a Combined Authority (D2N2) for the East Midlands.

“But that excludes us here in Harborough and Leicestershire.

“Leicestershire County Council was listed as one of the nine pathfinder authorities for a devo deal.

“We now know the original proposal was for what would have been a Level 3 deal,” said Cllr King.

“But this did not have the required support across the ‘functional economic area’ which is Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (LLR) due to objections by the city mayor.

“The mayor thinks it’s a ‘daft’ idea.

“The mayor is now the roadblock to the LLR benefitting from an enormous long-term investment of about £1 billion over the next 30 years.

“That in my book is a very daft idea.

“Leicestershire is historically the lowest-funded county council in the entire country.

“Every single authority has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic.

“Every penny will be vital – we all need all the help we can get.

“The cash will help to pay for crucial services and free up the money we generate for other things,” said Cllr King.

“We have almost 100,000 people here in Harborough and over a million in Leicestershire and Rutland.

“Every one of us could do with that extra £1 billion or so being pumped into this region over the next three decades.

“So what I would say to Sir Peter Soulsby? Change your mind and clear this daft roadblock now so that we can power forward and make the most of this golden economic opportunity.”

Asked to respond, Sir Peter said: “25 years ago, after many years of campaigning, Leicester and Rutland won their independence from County Hall and became unitary authorities.

“Over the years, both councils we have shown that we can use that independence effectively and creatively – representing the communities that elect us.

“We don’t need to turn the clock back and have the expense of another mayor running things in the city or in Rutland from County Hall,” insisted the city mayor.

“In the county they already have two tiers of councils.

“I can’t believe that they feel the need, or will want to pay for, yet another layer of local government.

“The three councils and the district councils have all shown how effectively we can co-operate together.

“That is what the Government should be backing.

“The notion that there is £1 billion on offer is pure fantasy,” said Sir Peter.

“They haven’t promised a single penny.”