IN a few weeks’ time, our neighbours in Barnsley and Doncaster will have their say in borough-wide referendums on whether they prefer their councils to enter into a Yorkshire Region or a Sheffield City Region devolution deal.
Devolution is important because Britain is one of the most centralised states in the world, meaning most important decisions affecting our lives are taken by national politicians not local leaders. This really matters because if you look at government spending on transport for example, London got £1,869 per person in 2016, while Yorkshire got just £247 per person according to treasury statistics.
Devolution is meant to be about giving local people a say on how the big decisions are made about their lives. Whilst our neighbours in Barnsley and Doncaster get a say on the way forward, our own council here in Rotherham is not allowing Rotherham people any say in this decision.
The Government have said that we only have the option of a Sheffield City Region Mayor, take it or leave it and that, even if Barnsley and Doncaster prefer to join a Yorkshire Regional deal it’s tough, they still have to join the Sheffield City Region. So the Government together with our local council have decided that whatever local people want does not matter at all, which is the absolute opposite of what devolution is meant to be.
Barnsley and Doncaster Labour parties have fallen out with Sheffield and Rotherham Labour parties over this. The Government have now withdrawn the offer of £30 million a year for 30 years to fund this, and (even though we must pay £1 million to elect a Sheffield City Regional Mayor next year) the Mayor will effectively have no powers at all, which is simply adding insult to injury.
Do we want to belong to the artificial economic construct of Sheffield City Region or do we want to come together with the region we have an affinity with in a wider Yorkshire Regional deal? And do we want a single Mayor to take all the decisions or do we want a Regional Assembly representing all of our political opinions and scrutinising those big decisions like the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament?
Come on Rotherham Council, give Rotherham people a say over our future, this is so important and could affect us for decades to come if not for generations.
Paul Martin, Rebecca Whyman, joint co-ordinators Rotherham Green Party