Councils pull out of South Yorkshire devo deal

19 Sep 17

Two councils have pulled out of the Sheffield city region devolution deal saying the planned structure is too small to be effective.

Following a meeting of the combined authority, Barnsley and Doncaster councils yesterday issued a joint statement confirming that they would not be proceeding with the proposed Sheffield City Region consultation.

Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, and Ros Jones, mayor of Doncaster, said much had changed since the original devolution proposal was floated two years ago.

These changes included last year’s Brexit vote and the decision of Bassetlaw and Chesterfield councils to abandon their plans to become full members of the city region.

Relations have also been strained by a decision to relocate a station on the HS2 line in central Sheffield rather than at the Meadowhall shopping centre, which would have been closer to Barnsley and Rotherham.

“These decisions affect the next 30 years. There is no way back once a deal is signed,” said Houghton and Jones.

“When we began on this journey to Sheffield City Region devolution we were big supporters, and we still fully support devolution.

“The government is now steering towards bigger regional, rather than city region, deals. Sheffield City Region’s deal without all the original nine local authorities is too small.”

The two leaders argued that a larger Yorkshire-wide devolution deal would be better, both politically and economically.

“It will allow strategic interventions and public service reform. Brexit requires us to organise at scale to get us to where we need to be,” the statement said.

“The Yorkshire coalition of the willing is coming together and collaborating. Seventeen councils are signing up to a wider Yorkshire collaboration. We need to be part of this – even if we have to wait.”

Houghton and Jones said the West Midlands model was close to what Yorkshire was seeking for its own devolution.

Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield Council, explained her local authority still supported the South Yorkshire devolution deal, saying it was the “only one on the table which is ready to go”.

“We hope that a way forward can be found to make sure that we can still bring the investment and powers to the region that we need,” she added.  

A DCLG spokesman said: “It is very disappointing that South Yorkshire councils have pulled away from their devolution deal, which would see the area benefit from around £1bn of new government investment.

“We remain ready and willing to work with local leaders to implement the deal and have no intention to undo the legislation that has already been enacted in Parliament, including legislation for a mayoral election in May 2018.

“We’ve been absolutely clear that we will not consider a deal for the whole of Yorkshire.”

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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