Thursday, September 14, 2017

News: Rotherham reiterates commitment to SCR devolution deal

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Cllr. Chris Read, the leader of Rotherham Council has reiterated that Rotherham is committed to the devolution deal for the Sheffield city region. It came at the same time as Doncaster and Barnsley Councils issued a statement on their prime objective shifting to a "One Yorkshire" devolution agreement.

Council leaders are due 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.

However, this option can only be taken forward with the approval of all South Yorkshire Councils.

Sheffield and Rotherham Councils appear committed to the £900m Sheffield city region devolution deal that 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.

A mayoral election was delayed following a legal challenge over the consultation brought by Derbyshire County Council.

Cllr. Read (pictured below) told a meeting of the full council this week: "The position of Rotherham Council hasn't changed. We had a devolution deal that we signed two years ago alongside our colleagues from across South Yorkshire. My position, was then, and remains now, that that is the best way of bringing the benefits of devolution to Rotherham.

"In view of legal challenges and other events, other colleagues and leaders have taken a different view and decided to seek out other alternatives. There are a number of council leaders now discussing whether there is a possibility of taking forward a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal. I have to say that the leader of Wakefield is an obvious person missing from those conversations. We continue to have those discussions.

"I would be lying if I said that I thought this was going especially well. I don't think it is. There will be an announcement early doors next week about the next stages for South Yorkshire but I have not deviated from the position that I recommended to this council ever since we brought the first report forward."

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A joint message from Cllr. Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council and Mayor Ros Jones CBE, Mayor of Doncaster, focused on the recent progress made on a "One Yorkshire" devolution solution.

The statement read: "By uniting with colleagues from across the region it is clear that the prize is now within our grasp. Critically, the Government has also indicated that it is listening.

"Real momentum has been created in a short space of time and it is crucial that this momentum is maintained. One Yorkshire must therefore remain our clear priority.

"This does not mean we are intent on immediately disbanding Sheffield City Region. We are not, and we would of course be willing to consider interim solutions that may be viable.

"However this must not divert us from our key priority, so our next objective is clear. We will work with our colleagues across this great county, to secure a One Yorkshire devolution agreement with Government. Everything else should follow from that."

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

Cllr. Read continued: "Recent events have been sad for the city region because we were taking forward a proposal which some people have expressed an interest in moving away from and that isn't my style of doing business. It is worth saying that the districts were never full members - they expressed an interest in becoming full members and that was subject to legal challenge and they weren't able to do that.

"Let me say something about this proposal around Yorkshire because there's some suggestion I think in the media that local authorities have a choice between the Sheffield deal and a Yorkshire deal. But there is no Yorkshire deal, there is no agreement Yorkshire has as to what that deal is and there isn't any serious conversation taking place with Government about what that proposal would look like.

"From my point of view, I have to take a view about what is the best way, the most likely way, of securing investment and powers for the benefit of this borough. My view at this moment in time, and has been since we signed the deal, is through the Sheffield city region deal.

"If that deal no longer becomes practicable, if it is not possible to take that forward because other people have changed their minds, then clearly we will have to look at what other options we have in front of us. But that isn't a road that I would wish to go down at this stage."

Images: SCR LEP / RMBC


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