Doncaster council in talks over £900m Sheffield City Region devolution deal

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 16-02-15 MC 3Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 16-02-15 MC 3
Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 16-02-15 MC 3
As the town's councillors prepare to decide whether Doncaster should be part of a £900 million devolution deal, Mayor Ros Jones has said she thinks it is the '˜right thing to do'.

Following an ‘in principle’ devolution agreement being reached between the Sheffield City Region and Chancellor George Osborne last year, which would include the election of a mayor for the area in 2017, local councils have been tasked with making a decision on whether to sign up to the deal.

Under the deal an elected mayor would take responsibility for transport budgets and strategic planning and have access to £900m of government money over the next 30 years.

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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.

Speaking at a meeting of Doncaster council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management committee, Mayor Ros Jones told members that she believed the deal was the only way of ensuring continued economic growth for the borough.

She said: “I think it is the right thing to do for Doncaster. It’s the only way we’re going to grow our borough.

“It’s the only area where funding is going to come in. “It’s the only show in town on the table, and the only way of growing our borough. We’ve got the backing of the town’s businesses, and I think it’s the right thing for the people of Doncaster.”

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Among the concerns raised by members of the Overview and Scrutiny management committee was over an elected mayor for the Sheffield City Region.

Councillor Craig Sahman, who represents the Conisbrough ward, asked whether there would be anything in place to stop a ‘maverick mayor’ from spending money disproportionately across the region, and in any way they see fit.

Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley council and chair of the Sheffield city region combined authority, who spoke at the meeting, responded by saying: “We are working to ensure that the constitution that would be in place for the region would be written so that on issues around combined local authority powers and funding a majority vote would be required.”

If the deal goes ahead, a SCR mayor would be elected in May 2017. Full council is set to take a vote on the devolution deal next month.