Monday, September 7, 2015

News: Sheffield City Region submits bid for second devolution deal

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Sheffield City Region's political and business leaders have submitted an "ambitious set of proposals" in a bid to take on further funding and power from central government.

The region has said that any deal to introduce a "metro mayor" will only be accepted if it does not disrupt private and public sector partnership arrangements which are already in place.

In May, the combined authority in the Sheffield city region held "informal discussions" regarding the possibility of an elected metro mayor. It followed comments from the Chancellor who 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.

The latest proposals are explicitly focused on the issues that businesses and local leaders identify as being crucial to speeding up economic growth in Sheffield City Region. The proposals include:

- Securing a stable, long term financial settlement – that puts Sheffield City Region in control of economic development finances and enables local leaders to invest in projects that matter to people and businesses locally.

- Powers and funding to enable more young people to secure jobs in local businesses and to support more businesses to invest in the training that will make them more productive.

- Transport – ensuring that local leaders have the powers and funding over our transport network to enable better connectivity internally in the Sheffield City Region and is also better connected to other Northern cities like Leeds and Manchester.

- Housing – by improving the use of publicly owned assets, and strengthening funding and planning powers available locally we can double our housing delivery to 7,000 homes per year.

- Advanced manufacturing and innovation – investment in a world leading area for innovation, advanced manufacturing and business growth.

- Greater accountability of national programmes to Sheffield City Region – including the ability to challenge government departments and agencies and ensure national programmes meet local ambitions and expectations.

If the proposals are accepted then Sheffield City Region said it would work with the Government to ensure that any new governance arrangements work with the recently created Combined Authority.

Sir Councillor Houghton, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said: "Following conversations we've been having locally and with government, we will submit an initial deal proposal on 4 September, which will form a strong basis for future ongoing negotiations. We're looking for a significant deal with government, which will bring the best possible benefits for local residents and businesses. For local leaders to reach a deal with government, the size of the prize will have to be great enough to satisfy the huge ambitions of our local partners and local business community."

James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: "Private sector leaders in Sheffield City Region are united and are working closely with our public sector colleagues to negotiate a significant deal with government, which reflects the scale of our ambitions. If agreement can be reached, the deal will focus on enabling us to speed up the delivery of our Growth Plan by taking greater control over economic strategy, which includes more committed longer term funding for skills, business growth and infrastructure."

In December 2014, a deal was signed to shift power from Whitehall to the city region's Combined Authority, giving local leaders greater influence over skills, transport, housing and business support. The combined authority is the legal body brings together the nine local authorities that comprise the SCR (Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham and Sheffield). The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a collaboration between businesses and the local authorities, provides the focus for economic development in the city region.

Whilst not coming up with any new money, the devolution deal builds on the city deal signed in 2012 and £325m growth deal secured earlier in 2014.

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: Sheffield City Region LEP

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