‘I’ll do anything to save devolution’ says Sheffield leader Julie Dore

Julie Dore, Sheffield city council leader in her office in Sheffield Town Hall
Julie Dore, Sheffield city council leader in her office in Sheffield Town Hall

Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore has said she will do “whatever it takes” to get the region’s shaky devolution deal over the line.

Coun Dore said the £900m deal for a ‘metro mayor’ would boost the economy and opened the door to potentially more funding and devolved powers in future.

She spoke out after Doncaster’s elected mayor Ros Jones said she needed more time to consider options, including Yorkshire-wide devolution.

That was despite Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry again re-stating the Government’s position that an all-Yorkshire deal was a total non-starter.

Despite her frustrations, Coun Dore insisted she was not going to give up on Doncaster, or Barnsley, where leader Sir Steve Houghton has been silent on the subject.

She said: “I will do anything to get this deal over the line. I’m not giving up them - I have no other option.

“Devolution is imperative for us in the current climate, with Brexit coming, a minority government and wage stagnation. It will increase prosperity, of that there is no doubt.

“I can understand why the business community wants it so badly. But it’s not just about the money, it’s about people taking decision locally and improving life chances for everyone but especially young people. We can’t waste any more time.”

Sheffield City Region’s devolution deal was delayed by a year following a judicial review. At that point Barnsley and Doncaster said they wanted to explore Yorkshire-wide devolution.

Then last month Chesterfield and Bassetlaw pulled out of full membership, throwing the plans into chaos.

Hopes are now pinned on it going ahead as a South Yorkshire deal. But it must have the agreement of all four council leaders.

They meet for a crunch meeting on Monday to decide the next steps ahead of elections in May 2018.

But Ros Jones has already stated she will not agree to start the process until the “implications of a South Yorkshire proposal are clear.”

She also wants to attend a meeting of Yorkshire leaders at the end of this month.

Coun Dore said: “They can’t offer anything. She can have a wishlist as long as the M1 but only the government can offer anything.

“As I understand it from George Osborne, devolution was a journey. I’m hoping it opens a route for further devolved powers and funding. If we don’t do the deal it puts us back.

“Yet we can see that Manchester, Teeside and Birmingham, who have all done deals, are racing away.

“Each year this deal is delayed means we lose £30m – money which could and should be going into our economy now to improve people’s lives across Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.”

Coun Dore said she had the backing of all six Sheffield MPs.

All four Chambers of Commerce in Sheffield City Region support devolution, as does the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Federation of Small Businesses.

A petition with the names of 107 business people who are in favour has been submitted to the leaders, and companies across the region have contacted them directly.

In an email, Ros Jones revealed a reason for her lack of enthusiasm.

She stated: ‘There has been little progress on making things happen by government, not least on the promise of a National Institute for Technology and Infrastructure here in Doncaster - one of the key things that persuaded us to sign this deal. Nor has there been progress at a national level on devolution for Yorkshire - our great region, which needs a voice at the table in Brexit negotiations where currently it has none’.