Sajid Javid has offered dissident South Yorkshire councils a compromise under which they could join a future One Yorkshire devo deal after participating in Sheffield City Region CA mayoral elections next year.
The communities secretary’s offer constitutes the most powerful ministerial acknowledgement so far that there could be a single deal covering the whole of Yorkshire, although it stops short of endorsing this proposal.
In a letter to local council leaders that was obtained and partially posted on Twitter by BBC Sheffield, Mr Javid writes that the “aim of any compromise” is for the councils to have the “full benefits of the Sheffield City Region deal whilst not in any way precluding your council and others from pursing their ambitions for a One Yorkshire deal”.
He urges Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham MBCs and Sheffield City Council to fully implement the existing Sheffield City Region deal, which is due to culminate in the election of a mayor in May 2018.
However, he continues: “At the same time the government [and the four councils] also agree that if a One Yorkshire deal comes forward and is concluded and agreed by the councils concerned and by government, some or all of the South Yorkshire councils would be free to join that deal subject to certain provisos, particularly that arrangements would be put in place to maintain the integration of transport across South Yorkshire.”
Mr Javid says he would appreciate hearing “initial views” on his offer before Christmas.
The letter has emerged a day before Barnsley and Doncaster, which now oppose the South Yorkshire plan, prepare to announce the results of consultative polls of residents about whether they wanted the existing deal to go ahead.
In September, Mr Javid wrote to the council leaders and MPs to state the government “will not consider any proposal for a Yorkshire wide deal that involved one or more of the four South Yorkshire councils”.
The Department for Communities & Local Government has not commented so far on the latest letter.
Responding on Twitter, Neil McInroy, chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, said the offer was a “potential fix/muddle”, but this missed the larger point that the government’s devolution approach is “too based on cities, with little thought given to historic identities, and heavily influenced by the un-replicable Greater Manchester model”.