Doncaster Council agrees £120,000 public vote on controversial devolution plans

Deputy mayor Glyn Jones
Deputy mayor Glyn Jones

Doncaster Council has voted to run a £120,000 poll to ask every borough resident how they want devolved powers to be brought in for Doncaster.

But the Government says is will not change plans it has already drawn up for a system that would be made up only of South Yorkshire authorities.

Doncaster mayor Ros Jones wants the borough to link up with areas from across the county as a whole, including West, East and North Yorkshire, rather than joining a devolved Sheffield City Region.

She says Brexit and a decisions by Bassetlaw and Chesterfield to pull out of a Sheffield city deal mean the original Sheffield city region deal, which has £900 million funding lined up for it, is no longer suitable.

Now Doncaster Council has voted to go ahead with a community poll on the issue in December. It will ask every voter in Doncaster to say which devolution proposal they would prefer Doncaster to pursue. The choices are wider Yorkshire or Sheffield City Region devolution.

It will cost £120,000 to carry out.

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Glyn Jones, said: “The purpose of this poll is to get a clear view from local people. We want to know if Doncaster people would prefer a devolution deal with a wider Yorkshire agreement or the Sheffield City region. Whichever devolution deal is chosen will have a huge impact on Doncaster’s future so we feel it is vitally important to get a complete view of the community in going forward.

“Now is the time for people to have their voice heard and help shape Doncaster’s future devolution path. This is a big question and we want to hear as many voices a possible. The poll will be made as easy as possible to participate in – either online or via post. I hope Doncaster people will take the time to help determine our borough’s devolution direction which will affect generations to come.”

But a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said it was not prepared to change from the Sheffield City Region deal.

They said: “A Sheffield City Region deal, worth around £1bn to the region, has been agreed with the councils, legislated on by Parliament, and partly implemented – and government has been absolutely clear that it will not undo it.

“The poll the councils are proposing would put on the table an alternative that unravels this agreement and which we have been clear we would not support.

“It’s for the councils themselves to decide whether it would be lawful, useful and in the interests of local people to hold this poll.”

A recent business poll by the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce resulted in 70 per cent of those who responded saying they would prefer a county wide devolution deal. Other supporters of a wider Yorkshire deal include the CBI, Institute of Directors, the TUC and Doncaster’s three MPs.

Barnsley Council has also voted to hold their own Community Poll and will be asking their residents which devolution agreement they would prefer to be part of.

The poll results are not legally binding, but the council says it will do its best to respect the outcome and make sure that the devolution deal that Doncaster votes for is achieved.

Every voter in Doncaster will receive a voting pack in the first week of December. They can vote online or by post. Polls will close on 20 December.