South Yorkshire takes 'crucial step' towards devolution after region's leaders finally agree on way forward
The South Yorkshire devolution saga which has seen the region subjected to years of political paralysis and deadlock could soon be over after its four leaders agreed upon a way forward.
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis said it was a ‘crucial step’ for the county after leaders of Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster agreed on a way forward with the backing of central government.
A timetable and next steps has been set out by the five regional leaders on what happens next. A public consultation is set to follow.
It is understood that Mayor Jarvis, who is also MP for Barnsley Central, had positive discussions with ministers last week on the issue.
All four parties initially agreed to the deal back in 2015 worth £900 million over 30 years with powers over transport, strategic planning and skills.
But before the deal got going, Doncaster and Barnsley said they wanted to change course and opt for a potential Yorkshire-wide arrangement back in 2017.
Deadlock ensued and mayor Dan Jarvis was elected a year later with little powers of devolved money at his disposal. He said getting the deal done was his number one priority.
But an agreement was reached which enables Barnsley and Doncaster to join another devolution deal in the future provided Sheffield and Rotherham don’t lose powers or per head funding.
But the issue of South Yorkshire devolution was kicked into the long-grass as central government was consumed by Brexit.
Leaders from both Doncaster and Barnsley were worried they would be locked into the SCR deal for 30 years with no opportunity to join a future Yorkshire arrangement.
A statement signed off from Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore, Rotherham Council leader Chris Read, Doncaster Council’s elected mayor Ros Jones and Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said: "We’re pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed he will be working with us to progress devolution.
“Subject to the Sheffield City Region devolution deal being advanced to a positive conclusion, he has also agreed to progress discussions on the role and functions of a Committee of Leaders from across Yorkshire, based on the existing Yorkshire Leaders Board. All South Yorkshire councils will have the opportunity to join any full Yorkshire devolution arrangement if they choose to do so.
"We will be considering a paper at the Mayoral Combined Authority meeting on Monday 27 and, subject to final agreement at that meeting, we will be launching a public consultation on the proposals.
“This represents a significant step forward in securing additional powers and resources for our region.”
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: "We stand at a critical moment for our country. As we leave the European Union, securing further powers and resources for South Yorkshire and building greater co-operation across Yorkshire will ensure we are best prepared for whatever Brexit brings.
"My responsibility to the people of South Yorkshire is to secure the greatest resources possible for them – particularly after a long decade of austerity and generations of systemic under-investment.
“We need to grow our economy, create more good jobs, invest in our transport network, improve the skills of our workforce and do all we can to protect our environment. Doing this will enable us to build a stronger and more sustainable region in which more people want to live, work and invest. We can do this far faster, and with much greater impact, with the significant additional powers and resources that devolution would deliver.
“By working together, and uniting with a shared purpose and a single voice, we will ensure we make the most of the huge potential that exists both here in South Yorkshire and right across Yorkshire and the north of England.
"This is a crucial step that builds on work that has been ongoing with Government for some time, driven by both Leaders here in South Yorkshire and members of the Yorkshire Leaders Board, representing authorities across the wider region."