Yorkshire-wide devolution would see more powers handed over than Sheffield City Region deal, say Doncaster leaders

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A devolution deal for wider Yorkshire would mean greater powers being transferred from the Government than the proposed Sheffield City Region scheme, civic leaders in a South Yorkshire district said today.

A letter and leaflet sent out by Doncaster and Barnsley councils to local homes will arrive by post today as part of the historic community poll over which of the two devolution deals they should support.

The material in the Doncaster voting pack, seen by The Yorkshire Post, tells residents that the handing over of powers from Whitehall "would mean that more decisions about spending on public services would be made here, rather than by the Government in London".

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It says that Doncaster and Barnsley originally supported the Sheffield City Region devolution model in October 2015, as "at that time this was the only form of devolution available to the area".

But it added that things have since "changed significantly" due to the UK's Brexit vote, the devolution models agreed elsewhere and the fact that not all district councils will be involved with the Sheffield City Region deal.

In her letter to residents, Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones said: "We’re exploring a wider Yorkshire devolution model. This is currently made up of at least 15 councils across Yorkshire.

"This wider Yorkshire approach to devolution is supported by the Confederation of British Industry, Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, Trade Unions and local MPs. It offers the prospect of a significant boost to the North and to Doncaster.

"The Government is keen for Doncaster to be part of a Sheffield City Region devolution arrangement rather than a wider Yorkshire proposal. We believe this no longer meets our ambitions over the next 30 years."

The leaflet sent out as part of the voting pack says the wider Yorkshire option, described by many as the 'One Yorkshire' deal, is "a much larger model that places it alongside the likes of Greater Manchester City Region and the West Midlands".

It says: "The region has 5.3 million residents living and working in a geographical area seven times larger than Greater London, with an economy worth £110 billion per year.

"This option hopes to extend the benefits of devolution by pursuing a wider deal across Yorkshire. It intends to give Yorkshire a louder and more powerful voice to lobby Government on behalf of our economy and people.

"This proposal would be much larger than the Sheffield City Region proposal. It would mean greater powers transferred from Government, although the precise scope of these powers has yet to be determined."

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Civic leaders in Doncaster and Barnsley have come out in support of the wider Yorkshre solution. Residents are told in the voting packs that, although the vote is not legally binding, the choice of the people will be respected in future devolution discussions.

South Yorkshire's ongoing devolution saga began in 2015 when then-Chancellor George Osborne signed an agreement with Sheffield City Region leaders, which includes Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

Under the deal a directly elected mayor, due to be elected in May 2018, will be given £900m over 30 years and handed power over transport budgets and strategic planning.

But, in August, the leaders of Doncaster and Barnsley signed up to a pan-Yorkshire proposal, initially backed by 17 of the 20 local authorities in Yorkshire.

Sheffield and Rotherham Councils have not given their support to the deal and the Department for Communities and Local Government says it is not prepared to consider any proposal that cuts across the Sheffield City Region deal.

Holding the poll will cost each authority £120,000. People can vote online or by post, with a closing date of December 20. The result will be announced on December 21.

Last month, Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, claimed it was "disingenuous" to ask people to choose between the two deals, as the Sheffield City Region deal was the only one currently on offer.

He told The Star newspaper in Sheffield: “I believe the question that is missing is, ‘Do you agree it is better to grab the deal in South Yorkshire that is on offer and then explore a potential Yorkshire deal in a two-step process?’”