Tuesday, September 12, 2017

News: SCR devolution deal set to be South Yorkshire only

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Council leaders are to meet next week and are being recommended to approve work to continue to see through the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Devolution Deal with the Government, but based on South Yorkshire only.

Described as "the only deal on the table," a deal with central government includes the creation of a Mayoral Combined Authority, 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.

Following withdrawals from councils who had originally intended to become constituent members, and with others wanting to secure the best possible devolution deal for their area, the combined authority (CA) has said it would meet next week to decide the way forward.

A number of options are up for discussion relating to geography, powers and timescales - consultation will need to be carried out again and agreement is needed from Parliament.

The leaders of Rotherham and Sheffield Councils did not join leaders from 17 other authorities who met last month to agree to the development of a "single ambitious devolution deal for the Yorkshire."

The paper to the Combined Authority reads: "Given this context, and in the absence of agreement on an alternative option, it is recommended that the CA proceeds with additional public consultation on a modified scheme for a South Yorkshire only Mayoral Combined Authority. This will put in place the powers and functions Order before the May 2018 mayoral elections."

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How a Mayoral Combined Authority would work was laid out last year. The current CA will keep its existing functions with political decision making around strategic economic development and transport. It operates executive boards focusing on business growth, skills, housing, transport and infrastructure.

Further powers, such as control over adult skills budgets, are set to be handed down, and the elected mayor will bring new functions related to transport, establishing a mayoral development corporation for planning powers and powers to prepare and publish a "spatial development strategy."

It is expected that whilst the Mayor would need to be in the majority for decisions relating to powers secured through this Deal, they would not need to be in the majority for decisions relating to the CA's existing powers and functions. It is also expected that non constituent members may continue to be given full voting rights on appropriate issues.

If the four leaders, and their respective local authorities in South Yorkshire, agree with this option, which is not guaranteed, consultation would begin on September 20.

If an agreement cannot be reached, options include holding a mayoral election in 2018 but with the prospect of them having limited functions, or deferring the mayoral elections.

Current member authorities do have the option to leave the current combined authority but would need to undertake a review and audit on what affect this may have.

Proponents of a full Yorkshire wide devolution deal have been given until mid November to put forward a compliant proposal to government. This requires agreement and input from all four constituent South Yorkshire authorities.

Another option looks at an interim mayor being in place from 2018 as the region looks to hold elections in 2020 – either the Mayor of Yorkshire as the first option or the Mayor of South Yorkshire (as a default if the Yorkshire option does not materialise).

Sheffield City Region website

Images: SCR LEP


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