Councils must stick with Sheffield City Region deal

Barnsley and Doncaster have been told they cannot join devolution in Yorkshire and must stick to the Sheffield City Region deal, in a bombshell letter from Sajid Javid.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wrote to Yorkshire leaders on Friday offering discussions on a county-wide deal for the first time - but insisted no council from South Yorkshire could be part of it.

The South Yorkshire four had signed up to the Sheffield City Region deal and had reaffirmed it twice and the Government had ‘no intention of seeking legislation to undo it’, the letter states.

The move drives a wedge between the 17-strong ‘Coalition of the Willing’ of Yorkshire councils seeking devolution.

They must now decide whether to move ahead without Barnsley and Doncaster, who appear to have no option but to stick with Sheffield City Region’s devolution deal for £900m, new powers and a ‘metro mayor’ to be elected in May.

The letter was sent ahead of a crunch meeting of South Yorkshire council leaders, to decide the future of devolution.

In the letter, Sajid Javid states, ‘We have consistently been clear that the Government is, and remains, committed to the Sheffield City Region devolution deal to which the four South Yorkshire councils agreed in October 2015 and to which they reaffirmed their commitment in 2016 and earlier this year as part of the legislative programme of implementation of their deal.

‘We are not at this point prepared to consider any other deal proposal which would cut across or unravel that Sheffield City Region deal. Parliament, with the consent of the four councils, has already legislated to implement key elements of the, in particular for a mayoral election in May 2018. Government has no intention of seeking any further legislation to undo what has already been enacted’.

It also adds that the SCR deal has widespread support from the Local Enterprise Partnership and local businesses, ‘who have made clear that leaders in the region should seize the opportunity that has been created for the people of South Yorkshire’.

Barnsley leader Sir Steve Houghton and Ros Jones of Doncaster have never explained fully why they want to break away from Sheffield City Region, stating only that they want ‘the best deal’ for their boroughs.

The letter then offers a ‘Greater Yorkshire’ deal to the rest of the county.

Sajid Javid writes ‘We welcome the discussions that many of you are now having. Were you able to come forward with a widely-supported proposal for some form of a ‘Greater Yorkshire Deal’ involving a mayoral combined authority – perhaps for all of Yorkshire other than South Yorkshire – this is something which we would welcome and would discuss with you’.