Misinformation row over South Yorkshire devolution poll

Barnsley and Doncaster councils have been accused of sending '˜misinformation' about devolution to residents.

Monday, 11th December 2017, 3:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:01 pm
Sir Steve Houghton

Both authorities have sent leaflets with a polling form to every voter to gauge support for their leaders’ ‘One Yorkshire’ ambitions.

But they have run into criticism for calling One Yorkshire a ‘deal’ and claiming it ‘could be in place by 2020’.

Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster chief executive Jo Miller.

They also refer to a Sheffield City Region ‘proposal’ when it has been ratified in Parliament and £900m, powers and an elected mayor are there for the taking.

Both also omit anything from government which has repeatedly insisted it will not allow either borough to join a One Yorkshire arrangement unless they finalise their own deal.

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster elected mayor Ros Jones called the polls - at a cost of £240,000.

It has no legal weight, although both leaders have said they will “fully consider” the results.

Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster chief executive Jo Miller.

Campaigners fear residents won’t have the full picture including:

* One Yorkshire doesn’t exist even as a verbal offer

* Only 15 of 20 councils say they want One Yorkshire

* The Budget showed the government favours funding regions with mayors. Yorkshire received nothing.

* The choice on the polling form should be between ‘South Yorkshire’ and ‘Yorkshire’ because that is the geography the mayor will preside over.

* Mayoral combined authorities can borrow against their devolved cash

* Barnsley’s ‘funding gap’ between 2010 and 2020 will be £115m.

On Twitter, Gareth Bruff, commented: “Shocking misinformation from @BarnsleyCouncil - #oneyorkshire doesn’t exist.”

Simon Jeffrey‏ said: “Unbelievably disingenuous to compare a devolution deal that is real and has been signed (Sheffield City Region) to a notional One Yorkshire deal which is highly unlikely even without Doncaster and Barnsley, and impossible with them.”

tiger_tennis‏ said: “The Doncaster leaflet is so, so biased towards one Yorkshire deal its probably a done deal.”

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber, said: “We need to get beyond politics and vested interests and be straight with people and tell them properly the potential consequences of not taking the deal.

“The only thing that guarantees us anything is the devolution deal for South Yorkshire which gives us £900m over 30 years.

“We can also borrow against it and use the money to support projects and investments to deliver high quality employment and skills that the region badly needs.

“Asking people to chose between a Yorkshire or a Sheffield City Region deal is disingenuous. The only deal on offer is the South Yorkshire devolution deal. The information must reflect the truth of that.

“I believe the question that is missing is, ‘Do you agree it is better to grab the deal in South Yorkshire that is on offer and work beyond that to explore a potential Yorkshire deal in a two step process?’”

A DCLG spokesman said: “A Sheffield City Region deal, worth around £1bn, has been agreed, legislated on by Parliament, and partly implemented – and Government has been absolutely clear it will not undo it.”

A Barnsley Council spokeswoman insisted they were impartial.

She said: “The information on the council website and included in the leaflet will be balanced and unbiased. It will go through robust checks to make sure electoral rules are being followed.

“Barnsley Council will be encouraging people to vote but we are impartial in terms of the information we provide.”

Doncaster Council’s website lists the benefits of devolution.

It states: ‘Devolution will bring benefits to Doncaster in a number of key areas including more money invested in our area; better places to live, learn, work and do business; and better roads and public transport.

‘Devolution will bring new powers and funding to Doncaster to improve infrastructure, transport, skills, housing and business growth. Working together with other local towns and cities, we can speak with one voice nationally and make better decisions about important economic growth’.

Read the Barnsley leaflet here