Thursday, September 10, 2015

News: Sheffield City Region would prefer not to have a mayor

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There was a general view that the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority would prefer to operate the combined authority model, without a city region mayor.

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 region has now submitted an "ambitious set of proposals" in a bid to take on further funding and power from central government and 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.

Campaign group, Sheffield for Democracy have been pressing the issue and minutes show that when asked at August's meeting if it would accept a directly elected mayor, the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority responded: "There is a general view that the Authority would prefer to operate the Combined Authority Model, without a City Region Mayor. However, this will be subject to Government Ministers' approval, and Ministers have been clear that they expect devolution will be in return for a directly elected Metro Mayor."

If the combined authority did agree to a City Region Mayor in return for more powers then there would be some sort of consultation with the public and with the region's businesses. There is unlikely to be a referendum.

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.

Cllr Leigh Bramall, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, has previously stated, that "in principle" the Council was opposed to imposed elected mayors, but that it was not being ruled out and that it would depend on how good the deal was and whether they felt they could deal with the consequences.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the progress of Sheffield City Region's devolution proposals and said that it does not object in principle to an elected mayor - providing it leads to rationalisation of support services across the region and the driving out of the cost of management.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber, said: "We welcome the thrust of devolution, but only if Sheffield City Region is brave enough to do things differently. We should expect that we can make better local decisions about how we spend money to deliver best economic return, as opposed to it being given via national programmes.

"However, we will have to do things differently and take a more dynamic and entrepreneurial approach to how we spend the money. We can’t be locked in to, and hampered by, processes in the way we have previously.

"My experience in business in the 80s and 90s – when manufacturing had to absorb some massive internationally-driven challenges – was that you had to implement some big changes.

"That in turn meant you did things fundamentally differently. Those who didn't embrace the change didn't survive.

"Look at the pressure on further education, for instance. If further education is being asked to look to take on a broader, more regional approach, why not local government, too?"

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