Friday, October 2, 2015

News: Sheffield City Region agrees devolution deal

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The Sheffield City Region (SCR) has agreed a historic devolution deal with the Government which will lead to more powers and money heading out of London, and a new Mayor in 2017.

The SCR was one of 38 bids submitted from major cities and regions from across the country wanting to take control of how public money is spent in their local area.

It could include some £900m of additional cash over the next thirty years to deliver major regeneration, infrastructure and business growth schemes.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected in Rotherham today to sign a deal with civic leaders from South Yorkshire that will see it vote for a new, directly-elected Mayor, in what he will hail as the most fundamental shake-up of local government for a generation.

Whilst the initial preference was 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 Combined Authority (CA), has a power of competence on economic matters across the City Region. It would see the CA and Mayor make decisions together.

The Mayor will oversee a range of powers devolved from government including responsibility over transport budgets; franchised bus services and strategic planning while the deal also includes additional devolved powers for the area’s Combined Authority.

This includes a new gain share deal within an envelope of £30m a year for 30 years – giving Sheffield the power to use new funding to boost local growth and invest in local manufacturing and innovation.

As well as allowing civic leaders in Sheffield to have control over major budgets, it will also enable the Sheffield City Region to strengthen its position as a world class centre for advanced manufacturing and engineering.

The bid asked for a £250m commitment to SCR as a national demonstrator for place based innovation programmes with LEPs based around the Innovatiopn District idea for the Sheffield-Rotherham economic corridor. Today's announcement says that the Government will offer the Sheffield City Region expert advice and support to ensure they are able to put forward a City Region led proposal to undertake a Science and Innovation audit.

The new Mayor will act as Chair to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority and will exercise a range of powers devolved from central government. The CA is set to take responsibility for chairing an area-based review of 16+ skills provision and devolved 19+ adult skills funding from 2018/19 in addition to joint responsibility with Government to co-design employment support for the harder-to-help claimants.

More effective joint working is expected with UKTI to boost trade and investment, and responsibility to work with Government to develop and implement a devolved approach to the delivery of national business support programmes from 2017.

Further detail on budgets are expected to be finalised in the Government's Autumn Spending Review.

Chancellor George Osborne said: "Sheffield is forging ahead in the Northern Powerhouse, which this historic deal proves is taking shape. I want to thank the civic leaders of South Yorkshire who have worked with me to embrace this opportunity. It has the power to change the shape of local government in the region in a way that would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago. For local people, it will mean the decisions that affect them being taken locally."

James Newman, Chairman of the Sheffield City Region LEP, said: "For too long Whitehall has been in control of major decisions affecting local places on important issues such as transport, skills, regeneration and infrastructure improvements. This deal goes some way to redressing this imbalance. It also means that the local private sector continues to play a leading role in making decisions which impact business growth, alongside combined authority political leaders and the new city region mayor.

"This deal will enable local leaders to accelerate delivery of the jobs and new businesses that our local economy needs to grow. This positions Sheffield City Region at the front of the Northern Powerhouse pack and strengthens our position as a world class centre for modern manufacturing and engineering technology.

"The deal is focused on the issues that businesses and local leaders have identified as being crucial to speeding up economic growth in Sheffield City Region.

"Of the 38 nationally submitted proposals this deal is the first to be done - reflecting the confidence of the Chancellor in the economic prospects for the Sheffield City Region which has transformed itself over the last ten years, the strength of our economic partnership, the support of our private sector and the quality of our bid into government."

The deal requires support from each of the local councils within the Sheffield City Region and is subject to a programme of consultation and engagement with residents and businesses over the coming months.

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: HM Treasury

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