Thursday, October 12, 2017

News: Berry crushes One Yorkshire devolution hopes

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Jake Berry MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, has made it clear that the Government will only look at other devolution options for Yorkshire if they do "not in any way undermine the Sheffield city region (SCR) deal."

Last month, a lack of consensus from the leaders of South Yorkshire's four councils denied the SCR the chance to conclude a devolution deal with the Government that promised £900m and extra powers.

Barnsley and Doncaster Council leaders said that a lot had changed since 2015 and that they would instead work on a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal.

However, in a Parliamentary debate this week, Jake Berry MP pointed out that there was no "coalition of the willing" and reiterated a letter from the Department of Communities and Local Government that confirmed that a "Greater Yorkshire" deal "should not and cannot include any of the South Yorkshire boroughs."

As it stands, this leaves the prospect of an election for a Sheffield city region mayor that would have relatively few new powers. 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.

The 2015 deal included more powers such as control over adult skills budgets and £30m a year for 30 years.

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During the debate, Jake Berry MP, said: "The Sheffield city region deal is the start of devolution, not the end of it. As a Conservative Government, we are not making a narrow political point. We will not gain any advantage from having a South Yorkshire mayor. I guess that the people of Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield deserve the devolution that they have been promised.

"Those areas came together in 2015 and asked this Government for the deal. We believed then—and still believe now—that passing power and money from Whitehall to those town halls can transform the lives of people in South Yorkshire. Then Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield reaffirmed their commitment to the deal—not once, not twice but on three separate occasions. At their request, not the Government's request, we legislated on two occasions to put ourselves in the position that we are in today. It is the law of the land, debated in this House, passed by this House, and voted on by this House that the mayoral election in the Sheffield city region will take place on 3 May 2018.

"The Sheffield city region deal is by all measures a good deal. It will bring £30 million a year of new Government money into one of the most deprived regions of the UK. It is one of the most generous devolution deals the Government have agreed. It equates to £22 per person per year in the Sheffield city region, compared with just £11 in Manchester.

"I have lived in South Yorkshire, and I know how deprived some of these areas are. People in Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham deserve the £1 billion the Government have brought forward for them."

He added that the Conservative party had begun the process to select a candidate for the mayoral election.

On devolution in the rest of Yorkshire, Berry said: "We welcome the discussions that have taken place over the summer, with talks having restarted after a significant period of stalemate. It is absolutely clear that there is no agreement around what has been referred to as the One Yorkshire deal.

"If Yorkshire leaders come to Government with a widely supported, ground-up Greater Yorkshire deal involving a single mayoral combined authority that does not in any way undermine the Sheffield city region deal, we will welcome that. We stand ready. We will meet with people, including [Archbishop of York] John Sentamu, because we believe that that deal, together with the South Yorkshire deal, has the potential to drive forward devolution in Yorkshire."

Images: Parliament.tv


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