Councillors agree to devolution poll

Barnsley councillors.
Barnsley councillors.

A public vote on whether Barnsley and Doncaster should support Sheffield City Region’s £900m devolution deal, or pursue a wider Yorkshire proposal, will take place next month after councillors unanimously backed the plan.

A postal poll will be sent to voters in both boroughs at a total cost of £240,000. It will ask residents to choose which devolution proposal they prefer.

Papers will be sent in the first week of December. A Barnsley Council report said background information would be supplied so the electorate ‘understands the issue’.

People can also vote online, with a closing date of December 20. The result will be announced on December 21. It is not legally binding.

Barnsley and Doncaster backed out of Sheffield City Region’s £900m devolution deal, offering new powers and a metro-mayor, to pursue a One Yorkshire proposal covering the county.

The Government has repeatedly said Barnsley and Doncaster can never join a wider Yorkshire scheme because all four councils signed up to the SCR deal and it was enacted in Parliament.

Some 15 of Yorkshire’s 20 council leaders back the ‘One Yorkshire’ ambition with Wakefield, Harrogate, Sheffield and Rotherham refusing to be involved.

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton, who backs One Yorkshire, said he wanted to give Barnsley residents an opportunity to have their say on “a generation-changing decision on devolution”.

He added: “Almost everyone has given a view except the people who matter most, that is the public. They are the people we are supposed to be doing this for.

“There are clearly differences of opinion right across the region but what is clear is that this is a very big decision for us.

“It is a difficult decision, a 30-year decision which will be difficult to reverse, if at all.”