South Yorkshire devolution deal in doubt as councils fail to agree

South Yorkshire devolution deal in doubt as councils fail to agree

By Gareth Dennison | 22/09/2017

South Yorkshire devolution deal in doubt as councils fail to agree
Rotherham Borough Council leader Cllr Chris Read

A £1 MILLION election could be held to choose a South Yorkshire mayor — who will have no powers or budget.

Sheffield City Region’s near £1 billion devolution project came to an end as Barnsley and Doncaster councils pulled out.

Barnsley leader Cllr Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster mayor Cllr Ros Jones said they wanted to focus on the One Yorkshire deal.

Rotherham Borough Council leader Cllr Chris Read chaired a stormy meeting at the Advanced Manufacturing Park on Monday.

Afterwards he said: “Today’s failure to reach agreement to progress with consultation on devolution to the city region is just the latest failure of councils across our region to grasp the funding and opportunities already enjoyed by other parts of the country. 

“Two years after signing the agreement in good faith, our inability to make progress in South Yorkshire will almost inevitably mean fewer resources to bring more jobs to our local economy.

“It is especially disappointing that this failure comes just days after the start of two major projects directly linked to funding secured through the city region, the new Boeing factory off the Sheffield Parkway, and the University Centre Rotherham facility. 

“For all the imperfections of our current arrangements, we have been making them work for the benefit of Rotherham residents.”

A Government order for an election to choose a regional mayor next May is still in place but the winner could be left with little power other than over buses.

Cllr Read said: “The election itself is expected to cost £1 million to run. It simply means that when the million pound mayor is elected they will have no formal powers and no budget.”

Sir Steve said the devolution landscape had changed since the South Yorkshire deal was first signed in 2015. The newer Yorkshire-wide proposals would have more economic and political impact, he added.

Cllr Jones said: “You have got to look at the widest deal possible that’s going to benefit your area. I’m here for Doncaster.”

A city region spokesman said: “As things stand, a mayoral election is still set to go ahead in May 2018, to elect a mayor for the Sheffield City Region 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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