Tuesday, September 19, 2017

News: SCR denied devolution deal

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A lack of consensus from the leaders of South Yorkshire's four councils has denied the Sheffield city region (SCR) the chance to conclude a devolution deal with the Government that promised £900m and extra powers.

The leaders met this week and were recommended to approve work to continue to see through the devolution deal with the Government, but based on South Yorkshire only.

However, this option could only be taken forward with the approval of all South Yorkshire councils, and when Barnsley and Doncaster confirmed that they don't wish to proceed, it left the prospect of an election for a city region mayor that would have relatively few new powers.

Barnsley and Doncaster Council leaders said in a joint statement that a lot had changed since 2015 and that the Sheffield City Region deal without all the original nine local authorities was too small. The leaders said they would instead work on a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal, something that the Government has not yet committed too.

A statement yesterday from the Sheffield city region said: "At a meeting of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority this morning, the leaders of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield councils could not reach agreement on the recommendation put before the meeting, which was to initiate public consultation on mayoral powers relating to devolution.

"However, as things stand, a mayoral election is still set to go ahead in May 2018, to elect a mayor for the SCR Combined Authority.

"This mayor will chair the Combined Authority, have equivalent voting rights to existing local authorities at its meetings, and also have some powers relating to bus franchising."

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The deal, signed in 2015, included control over adult skills budgets and £30m a year for 30 years. The city region warned at the start of the year that it would need to scale back activity due to the delays.

The Government made it clear that in return for the powers, a directly elected mayor would be needed and the order for the election, which was delayed by legal action, has already gone through Parliament. A mayor would chair the combined authority and have a vote equal to the local authority leaders.

Following the meeting, Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "Today's failure to reach agreement to progress with consultation on devolution to Sheffield city region is just the latest failure of councils across our region to grasp the funding and opportunities that already enjoyed by other parts of the country. Two years after signing the agreement in good faith, our inability to make progress will almost inevitably mean fewer resources to bring more jobs to our economy.

"However, we should also be clear what today's decision does not mean. It does not mean that there will be no mayoral election in South Yorkshire next year. unless the government chooses to change course, the order for that election is already laid. The election itself is expected to cost £1m to run. It simply means that wen the million pound mayor is elected they will have no formal powers and no budget.

"Neither does it mean that Sheffield city region ceases to exist. For now we will continue as we have been doing for the last few years, with the same responsibilities.

"It is especially disappointing that the failure comes just days after the start of two major projects in our area that are directly linked to funding secured through the city region: building the new Boeing factory off the Parkway, and the University Centre Rotherham in the town centre. For all the imperfections of our current arrangements, we have been making them work for the benefit of Rotherham residents.

"For now we remain committed to trying to break this latest impasse in order to secure the funding and opportunities that Rotherham residents deserve."

Sheffield City Region website

Images: SCR


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