Sheffield City Region CA has appointed Dave Smith as its returning officer for next year’s mayoral election – despite the fact its members are still divided over devolution deals.
The election is due to take place on 3 May 2018, even though the region’s devolution deal collapsed in September after Barnsley and Doncaster MBCs pulled out in order to pursue a Yorkshire-wide deal along with 15 other local authorities. However, the two other combined authority members - Rotherham MBC and Sheffield City Council - have not engaged in those talks.
The decision to appoint Mr Smith, who is the Sheffield City Region’s managing director and head of paid service, to the role of returning officer was made at a meeting of the CA on Monday.
A report which went before members said: “It continues to be the case that the constituent members of the CA are divided between those who wish the election to go ahead and those who do not.
“The CARO [combined authority returning officer] is nevertheless required to plan and prepare for an election so long as this remains the legal position. Should the election be deferred then the CARO would act accordingly.”
LGC previously reported how the election is set to cost the CA £1m.
The report said: ”The Department for Communities & Local Government has stated that there will be no grant funding for the costs of the election will therefore be met by the CA, as provided for by the regulations. These place a legal duty on the CA to ensure that a reasonable budget is in place for the CARO to conduct the election.”
The budget will be presented at the next meeting in December, the report said,
However, it added the proposed mayoral election next year is an “unsettled policy position”.
Alternative options to a mayoral election had previously been put forward in a report to the CA, but they were not discussed or voted on in September when the deal collapsed.
These options included asking the government to defer the mayoral election for another year, or adopt an interim mayor until 2020 with an agreement to then either take on a fully elected mayor for the city region or the whole of Yorkshire if a deal is in place.
As things stand a Sheffield City Region mayor will hardly have any powers.
The region’s devolution deal had included commitments that would have seen the region gain control of £30m a year to boost economic growth over 30 years, control of a £20m a year consolidated transport budget up to 2020-21, and control of the 19+ adult skills funding budget worth up to £30m a year, among other powers. But those will not be forthcoming from the government now.
The Sheffield City Region was originally due to elect a mayor in May 2017 before plans were derailed by a row over whether the districts of Chesterfield BC and Bassetlaw DC, in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire respectively, should join the CA as full members. Following a legal challenge by Derbyshire CC, in December 2016 the High Court ordered the city region to re-run parts of its consultation on the devolution deal, but this is not going to happen now. Chesterfield and Bassetlaw have since decided against joining the city region as full members.