Future of Sheffield City Region devolution decided in crisis meeting

Julie Dore, Sheffield city council leader in her office in the town hall
Julie Dore, Sheffield city council leader in her office in the town hall

City region leaders were meeting this morning for a showdown over the future of devolution.

Officials have outlined seven options for the future of the £900m deal.

They include going ahead with elections for a ‘metro mayor’ in May - which would bring cash and new powers - delaying the election until 2020 but with an interim mayor and dissolving the Combined Authority of nine leaders.

The emergency meeting was triggered after Barnsley and Doncaster leaders said they wanted to pull out of the Sheffield City Region deal and focus on a One Yorkshire proposal.

Because they have signed up to the local deal and it has been enacted in Parliament, undoing it is complicated. A mayor will be elected in May if existing legislation is not changed. Every other option needs Parliamentary agreement.

At the same time, Barnsley and Doncaster have been told they cannot join devolution in Yorkshire and must stick to the Sheffield City Region deal.

Sajid Javid. 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, 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 ‘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.

In the letter, Sajid Javid states: “We are not at this point prepared to consider any other deal proposal which would cut across or unravel that Sheffield City Region deal.”

Already, Harrogate Borough Council leader Richard Cooper is urging the rest of the coalition to accept ‘reality’.

He said: “We can either work with the situation or we can ignore it. Ignoring it could mean no devo for North, West and East Yorkshire. That’s the worst outcome.”