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Barnsley and Doncaster mull referendums on devo plans

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Two councils who pulled out of the Sheffield City Region devolution deal are considering holding local referendums on whether to stick with it or pursue a Yorkshire-wide deal, despite the latter option having been ruled out by the government.

Barnsley and Doncaster MBCs will vote next week on whether to hold consultative community polls. Rotherham MBC and Sheffield City Council both still favour the Sheffield City Region deal which collapsed in September when the two pairs of councils split on the issue.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said in September he “will not consider any proposal for a Yorkshire wide deal that involved one or more of the four South Yorkshire councils”.

But Doncaster’s elected mayor Ros Jones (Lab) wrote on her blog last week: “A wider Yorkshire devolution agreement would provide the best footprint, particularly as we leave the European Union.”

She added: “At the moment, the government says that it won’t let Doncaster and Barnsley be part of that ‘Greater Yorkshire’ movement. However, it has said it is open to the possibility of a wider Yorkshire deal that includes South Yorkshire in the future.”

Barnsley leader Sir Steve Houghton (Lab) said: “I personally believe a wider Yorkshire deal is the better solution for Barnsley, its people, communities and businesses.

“The debate has been going on for many months and it’s clear that there are different perspectives across the city region and a difference of opinion with central government.”

A report to Barnsley councillors said the borough originally backed the Sheffield City Region option “on the understanding that this was the only form of devolution available to the area.”

However, the rpeort added: “Since that time the situation has changed…and other devolution models have been agreed by government.”

Barnsley has estimated the poll would cost £120,000 to stage.

Despite the collapse of the deal the government is insisting an election for Sheffield City Region CA mayor takes place next May. The individual would chair the CA but without a devolution deal agreed by all councils involved would lack any additional powers and funding. Last week the CA appointed managing director Dave Smith as returning officer for the election which is set to cost the authority £1m. 

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry last week warned that pressing ahead with the existing devolution deal would not preclude the city region from joining a Yorkshire wide deal in future but he did “not see this as a possibility”.

The region’s devolution deal as its stands would see it gain control of £30m a year to boost economic growth over 30 years a £20m a year consolidated transport budget up to 2020-21, and a 19+ adult skills funding budget worth up to £30m a year, among other powers.





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