Friday, May 15, 2015

News: Sheffield city region to discuss elected mayors

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Sheffield city region leaders have welcomed the Chancellor's new plans on city devolution, even though the only way to get new powers and money could be to have an elected mayor.

In his first speech since the election, George Osborne was in Manchester to highlight how the ground-breaking devolution agreement with the elected leaders of Greater Manchester should be followed in the rest of the country.

The new model of civic leadership and local power has seen Manchester set to take on funding and power over transport, skills and housebuilding. Manchester is also set to receive 100% of growth in business rates and it was later signed over a £6 billion NHS budget, taking control of health, social care and GP spending in the region.

As part of this devolution deal, Greater Manchester has agreed to have an elected mayor and the Chancellor expressed that he wasn't imposing a mayor on anyone but added that if the regions wanted to be part of the "new revolution in city government" they would need to have one.

Osborne said: "We will hand power from the centre to cities to give you greater control over your local transport, housing, skills and healthcare. And we'll give the levers you need to grow your local economy and make sure local people keep the rewards.

"But it's right people have a single point of accountability: someone they elect, who takes the decisions and carries the can.

"So with these new powers for cities must come new city-wide elected mayors who work with local councils. I will not impose this model on anyone. But nor will I settle for less."

Unlike the London Assembly and its mayor, Manchester has established a combined authority, just as Sheffield has. The Sheffield Mayoral referendum in 2012 returned a no vote and the devolution deals done between the Sheffield and the government have been done without agreeing to an elected mayor for the whole city region.

Sir Stephen Houghton, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said: "We welcome today's announcement from Government, it is right that it is giving more power to local areas over jobs and growth. This is not devolution for its own sake – it is about improving our economy and creating more, better jobs.

"Government has been clear that it wants a single point of accountability. Our Combined Authority is meeting tomorrow and we will have an informal discussions regarding the Metro Mayor there.

"Previously, local leaders have agreed that we’re up for further conversations, but how far we are willing to go will depend on how much Government is willing to give."

James Newman, Chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, added: "I support today's announcement from the Chancellor about plans to devolve further powers to City Regions in England.

"Business leaders across Sheffield City Region believe that greater control over local decisions is needed to grow businesses more quickly and create better jobs.

"I sincerely hope that the benefits of devolution will not be delayed or diluted as a result of any changes to governance arrangements or distract from the important task of delivering our plan for growth. I am confident that our local authority partners will work with Government to take control over those important activities that impact our economy."

Images: HM Treasury

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