Fears mayor could be ‘barrier’ to investment

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

A TOP business leader has warned an elected mayor in Sheffield could be a ‘barrier’ to the city attracting new business - unless the person voted into the role is prepared to implement government plans for economic growth.

The Government has confirmed Sheffield is one of 11 cities which will have a referendum next May about whether to create an elected mayor.

Minister for decentralisation and cities Greg Clark told MPs he was pressing ahead with provisions for polls in 11 cities across England on May 3, at the same time as the local elections, “subject to the approval of both Houses”.

Regional director of the Confederation of British Industry, Andrew Palmer, said an elected mayor in Sheffield would be acceptable to business as long as the ‘trade-off allowing devolution of powers and local decision making’ came with understanding of the national growth agenda.

He said: “There needs to be a consistent approach to generating growth around the UK and we don’t want to have local mayors creating an uneven landscape which may be a barrier to businesses entering markets.”

Other prominent business figures including Sheffield steel company boss Andrew Cook, of William Cook Holdings, have previously spoken out in favour of elected mayors.

Mr Cook believes they have a ‘stronger mandate to take decisions’ being only re-elected every four years, whereas the city council is up for election three years of every four.

Another key supporter is retired Sheffield Labour MP Joe Ashton.

However, Sheffield Council’s political leaders in the main Labour and Liberal Democrat groups are against the idea because they say the position of an elected mayor would be ‘less accountable’ than the current system, so less democratic.

They also cite controversy over the running of neighbouring Doncaster by successive elected mayors Martin Winter and Peter Davies.

Speaking during House of Commons questions to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Mr Clark said: “The Localism Act passed two weeks ago allows new powers to be devolved from central government to cities.

“Each city has been asked what additional powers it would like to take on under this new provision.

“I can announce that I am laying before Parliament draft orders to be made under the Localism Act which will provide, subject to the approval of both Houses, for mayoral referendums on the 3rd May 2012 in 11 cities: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.”