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Sheffield devolution 'not yet a done deal'

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Sheffield City Region’s devolution deal could be on the cusp of collapse amid uncertainty over the requirement to adopt an elected mayor.

A lack of progress on fleshing out the finer detail of the city region’s deal combined with the fact Derbyshire CC plans to take legal action in relation to Chesterfield BC becoming a full member of the combined authority has also unsettled Doncaster MBC.

Doncaster’s deputy mayor Glyn Jones (Lab) thought the prospect of mayoral elections taking place in May next year, as had been expected, was now “highly improbable”. He added the city region’s agreement, which includes an investment fund worth up to £900m over 30 years, was “not yet a done deal”.

Discussions with the government about whether an elected mayor is needed for the deal to go ahead are being sought.

However, LGC understands it is expected that areas no longer willing to adopt elected mayors as part of deals will be required to start negotiations from scratch and that they will not be offered an investment fund if they choose to go down that route.

In a statement to full council last night Mr Jones said there was “significant uncertainty around devolution and the position of the elected mayors” which had “raged all summer” since the European referendum and changes at the top of the government.

Cllr Jones said: “We need a conversation with government as to whether a deal can be done without a mayor, which is our preferred option, and Doncaster won’t give its final go ahead until we are sure the devolution deal continues to be the best outcome for our residents, with no other options available.

“With all that in mind it’s hard to see how we can resolve all these matters in the next month or so. In my view, that almost certainly means May next year presents a highly improbable timescale for city region mayoral elections.

“We remain committed to devolution but we must get this right. We shouldn’t and we won’t rush this at any cost.”

Devolution map driver

 

Mr Jones said the details of the deal, including what powers the mayor will and will not have, “must be finalised” in the next six weeks so that the necessary statutory orders can be drawn up and debated in time for mayoral elections to take place next May.

Doncaster’s mayor Ros Jones (Lab) is to meet with her local authority’s councillors before taking a final decision, said Mr Jones.

While the combined authority met earlier in the week to agree sending its public consultation responses to communities secretary Sajid Javid – a further step towards securing its devolution deal – there were signs the Sheffield City Region’s deal was under strain.

Combined authority chair Sir Stephen Houghton (Lab) said in a statement on Monday: “The elected mayor is not yet a done deal.

“We are seeking clarity from government on whether this is still needed as there are still significant concerns around the mayoral model amongst a number of city region authorities.

“We won’t make the final decision to go ahead unless we are absolutely sure that this is best possible outcome for our residents and that there are no other options open to us. Any decision on the mayor and any election timetable is therefore subject to these considerations.”

This comes after the North East turned its back on a devolution deal, largely due to uncertainties about the future of European funding and opposition to adopting an elected mayor.

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