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Sheffield city region to join Yorkshire-wide devo discussions

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Discussions over a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal are set to begin in earnest after the Sheffield City Region admitted it is “not possible” to hold a mayoral election this year.

While the city region hopes to postpone the election to May 2018, proposals for a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal have emerged with the combined authority’s chair Sir Stephen Houghton (Lab) expressing a willingness to “explore” the option.

The proposal reportedly has the backing of Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy.

Sir Stephen Houghton

Sir Stephen Houghton

Sir Stephen Houghton

However, Chesterfield BC’s leader John Burrows (Lab) has warned his authority, currently seeking to join the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority as a full constituent member, would unlikely be a part of any Yorkshire-wide deal. He told LGC it would be “a step too far” and added he would “not be able to present an argument” that would persuade councillors and residents of the Derbyshire-based borough to vote in favour of it.

In a joint statement issued this afternoon Cllr Houghton, who is also Barnsley MBC’s leader, and Ros Jones (Lab), Doncaster MBC’s mayor, said they were “pleased” the combined authority’s leaders had agreed to “request the deferment of a regional mayoral election from May 2017”.

They added: “Sheffield City Region has also received an outline proposal from West Yorkshire for a whole Yorkshire devolution option.

“We remain committed to working economically across the Sheffield City Region and achieving our ambitious plans for job creation and economic growth. However, we have always said that we wish to secure the best possible devolution deal for Barnsley and Doncaster.

“We will therefore work with colleagues to explore this new Yorkshire-wide option, to ensure we give all potential devolution solutions proper consideration, so that residents can be fully informed when being asked to participate in consultation over the summer months, and that devolution delivers the best possible outcomes for local residents and businesses.”

A joint statement from the leaders on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said they were “determined [the] Leeds City Region cannot be left behind” in a devolution process aimed at boosting the economy. Despite a willingness to adopt an elected mayor they said they had been “thwarted by a lack of agreement from government” on a way forward.

They said: “In this situation we are willing to consider other options for devolution but these must be based on what is best placed to deliver economic growth and provide real identity and purpose.

“A Yorkshire deal underpinned by the existing combined authorities is one of these options that could unlock our Leeds City Region deal, along with those of our colleagues in Sheffield City Region, and the North and East of Yorkshire.

“We are meeting with colleagues across Yorkshire to explore these options so that we get a strong workable economic partnership for the Leeds City region, which delivers the best deal for Yorkshire.”

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