SOUTH Yorkshire’s long-awaited drawn-out slog to finalise a working devolution deal is finally complete.
The county, under the tenure of Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, will soon to able to reap the benefits of extra devolved powers and around £30 million a year from Whitehall.
The order for the deal will be laid in Parliament today, after letters of agreement were submitted by the mayor and council leaders in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The deal is set to be approved in Parliament in the coming weeks with a statutory instrument being used to pass this into law. Following this, the devolved money will then be available.
A public consultation that was carried out in the spring, found that people in South Yorkshire overwhelmingly supported devolution. Almost 90 per cent of 675 respondents said they supported the principle of devolution of further powers from Westminster.
Powers include a mayoral council tax precept in order to fund operations of the city region on top of the £30 million per year which is handed down from Government.
Mayor Jarvis will also be able to have borrowing power in order to get more funds and be able to have a deputy mayor and a political advisor.
The Government will introduce a pilot scheme in Sheffield City Region combined authority which will enable the area to retain 100 per cent of any additional business rate growth beyond expected forecasts.
These pilots will begin, subject to further detailed discussions between the combined authority and Government.
Bosses say the mayoral combined authority "should have control" over the consolidated devolved capital transport budget.
There will be full devolution of the adult skills budget which provides training for people over the age of 19 at colleges across the region.
Extra powers on housing are also being sought in order to "improve the supply and quality of housing" to secure the "regeneration or development of land or infrastructure".
The council leaders from Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley would form the mayor’s cabinet.
They will perform a "supporting and advisory function" to the Mayor and Combined Authority and where powers reside with the mayor, the SCR Cabinet may ask the mayor to reconsider his strategies and funding plans if two-thirds of the members agree to do so.
The deal was originally signed in principle back in 2015 under the then Chancellor George Osborne.
But both Doncaster and Barnsley council’s u-turned on the proposal and opted to back a Yorkshire-wide deal, something which wasn’t available to take up.
It is still the desire of both councils to opt to join the so-called ‘one Yorkshire’ arrangement if the plans ever materialise.
A compromise was reached with the mayor and the four council leaders allowing Barnsley and Doncaster to leave the arrangement providing Sheffield and Rotherham kept their powers and share of devolved cash.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “This is a landmark moment for our region. We are seeing powers transferred from Westminster – it means more decisions about South Yorkshire will be made in South Yorkshire.
“The journey to reach this point has been long and difficult. I firmly believe it is worthwhile, as it provides leaders in South Yorkshire the opportunity to transform our region. I am confident we will seize this moment to build back better, creating a stronger, fairer, greener economy and society.
“The deal comes at a crucial time, as we look to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. I am working alongside the leaders of our local authorities, and in partnership with our businesses, universities, colleges and central government, to secure new investment and put us on the road to a stronger, fairer future for South Yorkshire.
“Devolution does not stop at city region level. This is the start of our devolution journey, and working together across the wider region is going to be even more important than ever before.
“Collectively, we stand ready to unlock economic renewal for the region, the north and the nation, and devolution of powers from Westminster will help enable us to do this. We have new tools in our hands today. Together, we must put them to good use.”
Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP said: “I am delighted that we are today introducing an order to Parliament that, subject to its approval, will get the Sheffield City Region devolution deal over the line and unlock real benefits for people across South Yorkshire.
“This Government is committed to handing power to the local leaders across Yorkshire, and this is a significant first step in our ambition to deliver devolution across the region as we work to level up prosperity and opportunity everywhere.
“I want to thank the Mayor and local leaders for their efforts to ensure that this deal could move forward and secure £30m a year along with new powers that will make a real difference to people’s lives in the Sheffield City Region.”