Thursday, January 14, 2016

News: Devolution deal consultation ends this week

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Businesses who want to have their say on the in-principle Sheffield City Region (SCR) Devolution Deal with the Government will need to take part in the online consultation this week.

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.

It was only the second time in the country that such an agreement has been reached and in return, the Government will require a directly elected Mayor across South Yorkshire to hold accountability for the new powers. Elections could take place as soon as May 2017.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: "I believe that it is important that local businesses and residents take part in this consultation and help make our proposed deal a reality. The proposed deal has the potential to accelerate local business growth and create more and higher paid jobs in the area. By transferring powers and funding from Government, this deal will give local leaders, who better understand what is needed to grow our economy, the powers needed to maximise local business growth."

Cllr. Sir Steve Houghton CBE, Chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, added: "Our in-principle deal with Government is focused on being able to grow businesses faster and create more and better jobs opportunities for local people. These are issues that people really care about and so I encourage residents and businesses to make time to respond to the consultation before it closes at the end of the week."

A website containing information about the proposals and a consultation survey has been developed.

Local Leaders will be negotiating details of the proposed deal over the coming months but they are now consulting on the proposed deal so that they have the views of the people in the City Region before they finalise any deal. Local Leaders recognise that further work needs to continue to clarify issues in relation to the Mayor in any majority vote (to ensure the right checks and balances are in place) and potential amendments to achieving their preferred geography for the region (to seek maximum flexibility for all types of authorities to be part of combined authorities).

The deal needs to be formally approved by each of the local councils within the Sheffield City Region and is also dependent upon the Government delivering on the promises it has made in this and previous deals, and the city region agreeing to the creation of a directly-elected Mayor.

The deal covers a range of themes including transport, skills, creating new jobs, inward investment and support to help local businesses export as well as committing to working with Government on new ways to incentivise local growth.

"A number of challenges" identified by Sheffield City Council will need to be resolved. Namely, the issue that only the voters of South Yorkshire council areas in SCR will be able to vote in the proposed Mayoral election; and that the Government has set out that the mayor would essentially have veto over decisions at the Combined Authority.

At a joint chamber event at the end of 2015, Cllr. Houghton stated that he expected the mayoral veto to be changed in the constitution as the bill makes it way through Parliament. He said: "In the last four years of the LEP and Combined Authority we've never had to have a vote - we work together. When you start voting each other down, that's when it all breaks down."

Sheffield City Region website

Images: SCR LEP

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