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Leader urges referendum in devo clash with district

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Derbyshire CC’s new Conservative leader has called for a referendum which he believes will end Chesterfield BC’s bid to join the Sheffield City Region.

Chesterfield’s decision last year to join the combined authority as a full member infuriated Derbyshire’s previous Labour administration, which saw this as a threat to the county.

Derbyshire took legal action, which in December saw the High Court order a re-run of parts of the city region’s consultation.

This disrupted plans so that it became impossible for the city region to elect a mayor this year, and this was deferred to 2018.

Barry Lewis (Con), who became leader when the Tories took Derbyshire in last month’s election, said in a video posted on the council’s website that Chesterfield residents should be asked to vote in a referendum as public opinion was “clearly very strongly against” joining the city region.

He added: “They know what the answer would be.”

A Chesterfield spokesman said leader Tricia Gilby (Lab) had offered to discuss the situation with Cllr Lewis but was “yet to receive a reply”.

Chesterfield turned to Sheffield following the collapse of the North Midlands devolution bid last year, as did Nottinghamshire district Bassetlaw DC.

North Midlands would have covered Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and unitaries Derby and Nottingham city councils but several districts defected at a late stage.

Chesterfield’s spokesman said the town “will always be part of Derbyshire“.

He added: “We are now looking to access a share of an additional £900m of funding over the next 30 years that is only available through the one devolution deal on offer to Chesterfield and Derbyshire.

“We know from our conversations with local residents and businesses that once people understand the benefits and the fact that they will remain part of Derbyshire, the response we have received from them has been in favour of joining the Sheffield City Region devolution deal.”

The Sheffield City Region was due to re-run the public consultation over the summer, the spokesman said.

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