Friday, October 26, 2018

News: Millions still tied up in stalled devolution deal

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An estimated £75m a year of Government funding earmarked for much-needed economic development projects is yet to make it to the Sheffield city region (SCR) due to the stalled devolution deal.

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.

The 2015 deal included a mayor with responsibility over the region's transport budget, strategic planning and skills funding. It also promised £30m a year for 30 years to invest in local strategic priorities.

With Dan Jarvis elected as mayor of the Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority, he himself admitted that not enough progress had been made on devolution. His stance has been to implement the 2015 deal, push for greater mayoral powers, and push ahead with a wider Yorkshire deal.

In a discussion over the authority's own budget pressures, Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council and a former chair of the Combined Authority (pictured), admitted that there was little chance of seeing any of the £30m a year reaching the SCR anytime soon.

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"It's certainly not coming in the short term," Read told members. "I don't think we are going to get any movement in the short term around it. I think, and I've said this the whole way through, that there's an inescapable logic to devolution where you say to councils: "You are increasingly dependent on income from business rates and economic activity - you can have more money to help strengthen that activity in your area but we need you to work in a certain way to be able to access it."

"If you remember when we first started the debate and talked about having a mayor, people were concerned about that. A lot of people were against that. Certainly if you look across the region now, nobody is against that. What we've not achieved is agreement about how that exactly ought to function.

"Where we've failed as leaders across the 20 authorities in Yorkshire is to reach an agreement on geography between us and that means we are not getting money that we ought to be getting."

The SCR is still waiting on funding to upgrade the Hope Valley Line and to support key employment and skills initiatives.

Read added: "We are short to the tune of certainly tens of millions of pounds. People talk about the "gainshare" - the £30m for South Yorkshire - but actually if you look across the piece, including that, it is more like £70m to 75m a year extra for South Yorkshire that was tied into that deal.

"It is hugely frustrating to me that we are not getting that money."

Cllr Read has reiterated that Rotherham's position is that it believes that the Sheffield city region deal is the best opportunity to draw down funding and decision making to strengthen the local economy but it would take any proposals for a wider "One Yorkshire" devolution deal seriously.

Images: RMBC

1 comments:

Martyn Benson,  October 26, 2018 at 9:00 PM  

It's time to take the egos out of this and get the money for the SCR before the door closes! Local businesses (and their employees) are not going to thank the people who throw away an opportunity. That could make a difference at the next local government elections.

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