Monday, July 10, 2017

News: Leaders consider next steps for devolution deal

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Local authority leaders from across the Sheffield city region (SCR) are scheduled to meet next week to consider how to proceed with its £900m devolution deal.

Last month, Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said that the deal "hangs in the balance" and urged the local politicians to "maintain a focus on growth and make devolution happen."

As part of a deal with central government, a Mayoral Combined Authority (CA) 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 current combined authority is scheduled to meet on July 17 with the devolution deal top of the agenda.

It follows on from Chesterfield and Bassetlaw Councils withdrawing their applications to be full members of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority. Currently non-constituent members, the councils had signalled their intention to join the Combined Authority but a legal challenge from Derbyshire County Council over the consultation delayed the mayoral election from taking place this year.

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A paper to the CA states that the decisions to withdraw was "disappointing, but entirely understandable news, for the CA and LEP." A fresh round of consultation planned for July has already been scrapped.

The paper adds: "Considering the decisions taken by Bassetlaw District Council and Chesterfield Borough Council as well as the uncertainty arising from the outcome of the general election means that the SCR CA now needs to consider the next steps to take forward the Deal. The CA is requested to consider and discuss this issue and decide what the next step should be.

"Both the Combined Authority and the LEP have expressed their disappointment at the decisions of Chesterfield and Bassetlaw – whilst entirely respecting the decision of these two authorities and their reasons for doing so. The SCR has successfully worked as a partnership to date – and there is nothing to stop the area continuing to do so in the future. In particular, this includes the delivery of SEP and associated programme of Growth Deal investment."

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.

Jake Berry, the newly-appointed Northern Powerhouse minister is quoted in today's Yorkshire Post setting out his Government's stance on there not being a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal.

The MP said: "Devolution is about giving control to cities. Sheffield goes first. Next May people in the Sheffield region will elect a mayor and I share the strong view of local business leaders that the deal we signed in October 2015 remains the right deal for Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield. Indeed, it's the only deal that's there for those areas."

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: SCR LEP


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