Sheffield City Region £900m devolution deal put on hold

Doncaster elected mayor Ros Jones
Doncaster elected mayor Ros Jones
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Sheffield City Region’s £900m devolution deal is on hold until September while the leaders of Doncaster and Barnsley “explore other options.”

Sir Steve Houghton, of Barnsley, and elected Doncaster mayor Ros Jones, said they wanted to explore any benefit of other deals.

At a meeting of the Combined Authority - which represents the region’s nine councils - Sir Steve said he was temporarily stepping down as chair to avoid a conflict of interest.

He later said he wanted to look into a “Yorkshire model, a greater Yorkshire model an urban Yorkshire model and a South and West Yorkshire model. There’s a lot of stuff out there people are suggesting, it’s confusing my members.

“At the end of the day devolution has to be a coalition of the willing.”

Last week Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said: “I want to be very clear about one thing. There will not be a ‘full Yorkshire’ devolution deal.”

But Mr Houghton said he had had conversations with Government in which councils had been urged to come together with a ‘bottom up approach,’ which is what he was doing.

He added: “They can’t have it both ways. I have made it clear to Jake Berry we need more time to look at the potential of other deals with other leaders and see if any of those tempt him.”

He also re-stated his opposition to having a mayor, a position he’d held “from day one.”

Yorkshire leaders are meeting at the end of this month to discuss options, he added.

The Government has offered Sheffield City Region £900m over 30 years and devolved powers in return for an elected ‘metro mayor’.

But the deal was delayed by a judicial review. The project was thrown into chaos last month when Chesterfield and Bassetlaw pulled out of mayoral plans.

Hopes are now pinned on an agreement with a mayor covering South Yorkshire.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, which represents business, said they continued to be “100 per cent behind devolution” and wanted it to happen as soon as possible.

He added: “Chesterfield and Bassetlaw’s decisions are clearly regrettable. But the prize makes it the right thing to do. We urge the leaders to continue along the journey.”

The next Combined Authority meeting is on September 11. If the deal goes ahead, a public consultation will be staged ahead of elections in May 2018.