Tuesday, January 17, 2017

News: Council leader backing SCR devolution deal

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The leader of Rotherham Council has reiterated his view that the current Sheffield city region (SCR) devolution deal offers the best chance of boosting the local economy.

Cllr. Chris Read, who sits on the Combined Authority alongside other council leaders, said that "there is only one devolution deal on the table" whilst others consider exploring a new Yorkshire-wide option.

As the proposed devolution deal progresses, a Mayoral Combined Authority is set to be created, building on the 2013 agreement which saw the nine local authorities that comprise the city region create a new legal body with responsibility for transport, economic development and regeneration.

The £900m devolution deal includes a new gain share deal within an envelope of £30m a year for 30 years – giving the SCR the power to use new funding to boost local growth and invest in local manufacturing and innovation. In return, the Government will require a directly elected mayor to hold accountability for the new powers.

Chesterfield and Bassetlaw Councils, currently non-constituent members, signalled their intention to join the Combined Authority but a legal challenge from Derbyshire over the consultation means that it will need to be carried out again.

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At a meeting of councillors and commissioners this week, Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council (pictured, left), said: "Everyone here will know by now that the legal challenge that was taken by Derbyshire County Council has meant that any city region Mayoral election for the Sheffield city region has had to be delayed until May 2018.

"There is much speculation about other devolution deals, and other geographical arrangements, but there is only one devolution deal on the table anywhere in Yorkshire and it is the one that we negotiated alongside our closest local authorities - those with communities most like ours.

"My view remains that if we are to ever achieve the devolution of powers, and more importantly of spending, that we seek in order to promote jobs and strengthen our economy then the most likely way of achieving that is through a deal very much like the one that we negotiated before.

"Of course circumstances may change - and if they do then we would need to re-examine our response and I will bring that information to members - but our analysis should remain a hard-headed approach on how best we can spread opportunity and prosperity.

Read has previously said that the SCR deal "puts puts Rotherham on the national stage – prioritising jobs, housing and infrastructure" and the Council has been working to secure its share of funding via the SCR.

Read added: "This approach is already beginning to pay dividends. I am really pleased that we are very close to securing funding for the town centre HE campus, better access to the Pit House West potential Gulliver's development, the purchase of Forge Island in the town centre and investment in and around the Advanced Manufacturing Park."

Following receipt of an outline proposal from West Yorkshire for a whole Yorkshire devolution option, Leader of Barnsley Council, Cllr. Sir Stephen Houghton, and Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, said they would secure the best possible devolution deal for Barnsley and Doncaster.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said he was flabbergasted by some of the reactions to the delays, questioning Houghton and Jones' commitment to the SCR, adding that: "It smacks of opportunistic politics and vote chasing, rather than making a decision and driving it through."

Images: SCR LEP


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