Monday, June 26, 2017

News: Sheffield City Region devolution deal "hangs in the balance"


Politicians are putting the £900m Sheffield City Region (SCR) devolution deal at risk, according to local businesses leaders.

As part of a deal with central government, a Mayoral Combined Authority is set to be created, 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.

Chesterfield and Bassetlaw Councils, currently non-constituent members, signalled their intention to join the Combined Authority but a legal challenge from Derbyshire County Council over the consultation delayed the mayoral election from taking place this year. Chesterfield Borough Council and Bassetlaw District Council subsequently withdrew their applications to be full members of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.

A fresh round of consultation planned for July will not take place as planned and instead the Combined Authority will meet again to discuss next steps at their planned meeting on the July 17.

Ahead of the meeting, Sir Nigel Knowles (pictured), chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, the private sector-led board which brings together business leaders and local politicians to make decisions that drive economic growth and create new jobs, has written an open letter calling on city region politicians to keep a focus on devolution.


The letter reads:

Our devolution deal hangs in the balance. Local and national turbulence, a damaging court case and the actions of two County Councils who have chosen to put their own interests above those of businesses or residents has left our local politicians uncertain about what to do next.

My view, and that of the private sector board members on the Local Enterprise Partnership is unequivocal - we remain fully committed to devolution and will do everything we can to help the local politicians achieve a deal for our region and their respective areas.

For the first time in a generation this city region has returned to economic growth led by the private sector. Growth built on the back of growing productivity in advanced manufacturing and materials specialisms, in value added logistics, rail engineering and growth in digital tech and professional services. Confidence within and confidence about our city region has never been higher. It is a confidence reflected in our changing urban landscape and in those businesses growing their workforce and investing in new equipment or ways of doing things.

If we are to keep this forward momentum then as a region we need to re-create that "first mover" advantage which was so effectively deployed to deliver the first fruits of devolution. This first mover advantage is a necessity if the region is to really benefit from the opportunities which will come from an industrial strategy which at least in part requires local delivery and local devolution to work. A confident, focussed and well led partnership between the private and public sectors speaks volumes to Government about our ability to deliver.

It is in this context that the private sector need to help Local Authorities take the next step to achieve more and better devolution. We all recognise that as a consequence of Chesterfield and Bassetlaw withdrawing from the Mayoral Combined Authority process and because of the changed national political landscape, the devolution agenda is in a state of flux and is changing. The answer to a changed position cannot be to do nothing. This risks everything in terms of economic growth and opportunity. Central Government and Local Government have a dual responsibility to find a way forward which sustains and where possible accelerates the devolution of power, responsibility and resources to support growth and productivity in our economy. We all need to maintain a focus on growth and make devolution happen.

Rotherham Council has backed the deal as it went through consultation last year with Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council insisting that "there is only one devolution deal on the table" - the SCR deal which "puts Rotherham on the national stage – prioritising jobs, housing and infrastructure."

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: SCR LEP


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