Scrunity panel orders South Yorkshire leaders to answer questions on stalling devolution deal

South Yorkshire’s four council leaders are to be hauled before a scrutiny committee of councillors to answer questions on the devolution deadlock.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 12:52 pm
Council leaders (Top left to bottom right) Coun Julie Dore (Sheffield) Coun Chris Read (Rotherham) Coun Sir Steve Houghton (Barnsley) and Elected Mayor Ros Jones (Doncaster)

South Yorkshire’s four council leaders are to be hauled before a scrutiny committee to answer questions on the devolution deadlock.

Richard Allan Jones, Doncaster Conservative councillor for Finningley, told a meeting of the full council a request had been drawn up to bring the borough's elected mayor Ros Jones, Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore, Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley and Rotherham leader Chris Read to a Sheffield City Region scrutiny meeting.

The four local authorities are currently at a standstill on how the region should proceed with the prospect of devolved powers and cash.

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All four council leaders signed the devolution deal back in 2015 with the then Chancellor George Osborne.

But Doncaster and Barnsley staged a U-turn and opted to support a wider Yorkshire deal.

Both authorities have said signing the Sheffield City Region deal would be a stepping-stone towards a bigger county-wide plan and want assurances they can do this.

Sheffield and Rotherham want to sign the current offer before discussing the prospect of a Yorkshire deal.

Addressing Mayor Jones at the meeting, Coun Jones said: “We’ve still not got this agreement between all the four councils about how the mayor (Dan Jarvis) can actually operate.

“I wondered whether you could explain to me the reasons why we haven’t signed this agreement? You talked about your budget proposals about a lack of investment but the lack of not signing this document which seems in the region of £20 million plus is being lost by not agreeing to this.

“The mayor (Dan Jarvis) actually said I’m talking to these leaders in the four areas to come to some agreement and he’s been saying that since he was put in place last year.

“I don’t think we’re getting the correct answers to the issues. From that, we’ve asked for the four leaders to be brought before scrutiny in the Sheffield City Region.

In response, Mayor Jones said: “I will continue to push for this borough and for a one Yorkshire deal but we’ve always said Government can actually do it in tandem to get us there because the people of Doncaster have spoken when we got the highest percentage wanting to see us part of a wider devolved region that we can punch above our weight in.

“It’s about one Yorkshire as far as I’m concerned but we’ve never said it couldn’t be brought forward they’ve just not got everyone together at the same time.

“I’m not aware that I’ve been asked to come to overview and scrutiny and I await for the request to come through.”