South Yorkshire Mayor and Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis reflects on the 'most challenging year since 1944'

As 2020 comes to a close, Barnsley East MP and Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has paused to reflect on the last 12 months – praising the community spirit of South Yorkshire, hoping for more investment in the region, and marking the changes he has faced in the nine years he has served as MP.

By Danielle Andrews
Friday, 1st January 2021, 7:00 am

Reflecting on a year of highs and lows, Mr Jarvis said 2020 has been “the most challenging since 1944” in the wake of the Covid pandemic, which has seen the deaths of more than 1,600 people in South Yorkshire to date.

Mr Jarvis praised the “strong sense of community” in the region, adding the that overwhelming majority of residents have “done the right thing” during 2020.

“We have seen the worst of times, but I think we’ve also seen the best of some people,” he said.

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Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis.

“We’ve had the opportunity to see the best of our communities and the way in which people have rallied around supporting others has been really inspiring to see.”

Mr Jarvis added that the country will be living with the consequences of the virus “for a long time to come”, and investment in the recovery of the economy is “absolutely critical for the longer term economic prosperity of South Yorkshire.”

In July, a landmark devolution deal was signed by the Minister of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP.

It was the culmination of years of campaigning by Mr Jarvis and his team, marking a significant breakthrough for the region, bringing with it new powers and millions of pounds of new funding.

Mr Jarvis will celebrate ten years of being an MP in March, and has seen a number of changes since 2011 – particularly the number of people who require support as a result of the government’s austerity measures.

“There’s been an increasing desperation as the cuts have got deeper and harder. It’s really distressing to see that,” he said.

As if a pandemic and landmark devolution deal was not enough to keep the Sheffield City Region mayor busy, Mr Jarvis has also released book this year about his time serving in the elite Parachute Regiment, and the tragic death of his wife Caroline.

“Long Way Home: Love, life, death, and everything in between”, was released in March, and readers have praised the book for helping them through dark times.

“I’ve not really spoken about the book much, because there’s been global pandemic taking place,” said Mr Jarvis.

“It has been extraordinarily rewarding to receive wonderful feedback from people who’ve read it. And I’m really grateful to all those people who’ve been in touch to say that they enjoyed it.”

So what does the future bring for the MP and mayor?

The mayoral elections are penned in for 2022, and Mr Jarvis said he has not yet made a decision whether to step down.

He added: “I’ve always said it’s not a long term arrangement to do both – It was it was the right thing to do to step forward to be the mayor and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve under the most difficult circumstances.

“At some point before 2022 of course I have to make a decision about up what the future holds but right now, we are amid a pandemic that has been an extraordinarily challenging.

“So what I will do is get South Yorkshire through this challenging period of time, and then at some point the other side, I will take stock and I will make a decision.”

Mr Jarvis said that he also hopes 2021 will bring: “massive investment into our regions.”

He added: “The government have talked a lot about levelling up. But so far, we haven’t really sort of seen the benefits of that, and we’ve not received the investment that I know that we need in order to properly level up both our economy and our society.

“I very much hope that we’ll see a greater level of investment, not just in our NHS, but in the general health and well being of our population.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.