Devolution deal for Doncaster: Send us your questions for political leaders

Doncaster Civic Offices.
Doncaster Civic Offices.
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Residents are being asked to comment on plans for a South Yorkshire mayor to oversee a £900 million devolution of powers from central government.

Civic and business leaders in the Sheffield City Region agreed a deal in principle with chancellor George Osborne in October to give the region more say over its economy.

The devolution deal - part of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative - covers transport, skills and creating new jobs but is dependent on adopting an elected regional mayor set-up to oversee the budget.

It is envisaged that a Sheffield City Region mayor will be elected in 2017. They will be responsible for transport budgets and strategic planning.

The agreement means the Sheffield City Region will also have access to a pot of government money - £30m a year over 30 years - enabling the area to boost local growth and invest in local manufacturing and innovation. The mayor will chair meetings for Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.

The city region is comprised of the nine local authority areas of Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham and Sheffield.

As well as being subject to consultation, the deal must be formally approved by all councils in the region and the Government.

Residents have until January 15 to express their opinions on the plans by visiting www.sheffieldcityregiondevolution.org.uk

In addition, the Doncaster Free Press would like to hear any questions you have about the plans. We will then put your questions to civic leaders in Doncaster and publish their responses.

Email questions to lee.peace@jpress.co.uk by midnight on January 10.

If you want further information about what the devolution deal involves, please see a recent question and answer session below which the Free Press conducted with the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Q: When will the full in-principle deal be made public?

A: It is available already and can be viewed on the Sheffield City Region website – find it at sheffieldcityregion.org.uk

Q: Who will ultimately be in control of the £900 million of funding for Sheffield City Region?

A: The Sheffield City Region combined authority, which will be made up of the nine leaders of the region’s councils and the proposed elected mayor.

The mayor will act as chairman of the authority and the leaders as their cabinet members.

Q: Which Government pot will this funding come from exactly?

A: The Department for Communities and Local Government has not confirmed where the £900m ‘infrastructure fund’ will come from in Government.

Q: How will the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), combined authority, councils and the directly elected mayor work together? What is each of their roles?

A: In the proposed agreement, the elected mayor will be directly responsible for the transport budget, franchised bus services, key transport routes and strategic planning but will only cover South Yorkshire, not the whole region.

Transport is a county function which means non-metropolitan districts in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire cannot join the transport deal.

The combined authority will be responsible for all other devolved powers in the region including skills provision, employment support and joint working on boosting trade and investment.

The LEP will continue to be an ‘economic advisory board’ to the city region leaders and mayor.

No powers will be lost from local councils and they will continue to perform their current functions. The deal says further powers could be agreed over time.

Q: How much will the mayor be paid for the job?

A: Nobody appears to know as the role does not yet exist in statute. In places with city mayors the salary is set by an independent remuneration panel. The Mayor of Leicester is paid £67,000 a year, although there is controversy over a recommendation to raise it to £100,000.

Q: How far-reaching are the powers over transport – will they give the region more influence over decisions such as the location of Sheffield’s HS2 station?

A: No, national projects such as HS2 are decided by the Government. The mayor will ‘be in a position to have an influence and shape the debate’.

Q: Last year when South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright stood down in the wake of the Rotherham scandal, there had been confusion over who could make him do so. Who in Government will oversee the mayor and what powers will they have?

A: Locally the mayor would be elected every four years and there will be a Sheffield City Region overview and scrutiny committee.

The leaders of the combined authority can amend and veto the mayor’s budget or strategies with a two-thirds majority. The Government will assess the region’s investments every five years.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the mayor would be overseen in the same way current elected mayors and councillors are across England while a mayor which took on police and crime commissioner functions would be held ‘to the same standards as PCCs.’

Q: What role will the business community play in this, given the LEP was founded in part by voluntary business leaders?

A: The proposed mayor will be a member of the LEP as will other members of the combined authority. Sheffield Council says businesses have a ‘critical’ role to play and will be worked with and consulted closely.

Q: What exactly will the public now be consulted on, given that the in-principle deal has been signed and a mayor has already been agreed?

A: The consultation is still being discussed and, once launched, will run until Christmas.

It is still not clear yet whether it will solely consult people on the principle of the devolution deal and mayor or the potential projects it could help to progress.

Q: Will there be a formula to decide how the money is shared out across nine different local authorities or will it be on a ‘case by case’ basis?

A: Money available will be used so it has the biggest positive impact on the economy. Investments will be made in projects according to potential for economic growth and job creation, not where they are geographically.

Q: How will the election of the mayor be paid for, given the PCC election cost £1.6m?

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Our investment will give the area greater financial flexibility so that any extra costs arising as a result of the mayoral elections will have no impact on existing council budgets.”