Friday, September 18, 2015

News: How a Mayor for the Sheffield City Region might work

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The mayoral model put forward as part of the Sheffield City Region's (SCR's) devolution bid to Government would see the Mayor act as the Chair of the Combined Authority.

In 2013, the nine local authorities that comprise the SCR agreed to create a new legal body, the Combined Authority (CA), that would have responsibility for transport, economic development and regeneration.

Whilst the initial preference is to do a devolution deal without a directly elected mayor, a second preference of a "Mayoral CA Model" has been devised that would see a Mayor whose constituent authorities are South Yorkshire and, like the current CA, has a power of competence on economic matters across the City Region. It would see the CA and Mayor make decisions together.

As areas within the SCR have also been included within bids covering Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, issues over areas having more than one elected city region-wide mayor will need to be addressed. A 50/50 funding split exists for the five districts that are in both the Sheffield City Region and D2N2 economic areas.

Amendments to the Government's Devolution Bill would also need to be made.

A cabinet model is being proposed, whereby the Mayor would be joined by the members of the Combined Authority (the leaders of the local councils) and the chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The LEP is the private sector led approach to providing the strategic leadership required to set out local economic priorities, and better reflect the natural economic geography of the areas they serve.

The responsibilities of the Mayoral CA would include budget setting and high level strategies and powers would include borrowing and planning. Details included in the bid to Government can be found here.

It is not expected that the mayoral model proposed will lessen the role of the LEP and the private sector.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the full council in Rotherham this week.

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council said at the meeting: "This is the start of our formal conversations around powers that could be drawn down to the Sheffield City Region which will give us, all being well, more control over our local economy, over creating jobs, over building infrastructure that we need, and not simply having those decisions made by the man in Whitehall.

"The submission was subject to a lot of debate, a lot of discussion between the nine member authorities. It isn't a conclusive debate, it's the beginning of that conversation.

"The Mayoralty is the thing that will make the headlines. It is the position of all the Sheffield City Region authorities that our preference is not to create a Mayor, not to create another elected position. The government's position is quite clear though that they will expect us to take on a directly elected Mayor with some sort of powers in order to do the deal.

"If we do go ahead with a Mayor we would be looking for that to be directly elected across the whole city region. I think that if the Government wants to give us a Mayor then we need to be asking for very particular powers to make that worthwhile.

"It is a big opportunity for the Sheffield City Region but at the moment it's just an opportunity. I hope we can do a deal and make it worthwhile for the people who live in our borough. If we can't, then we won't."

The report on the submission to Government was noted by the full council. As discussions continue between the city region and the Government, any deals done are likely to come back for council approval.

Images: SCR LEP

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