Two districts have dropped their bids to join the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority as full members paving the way for a mayoral election to take place next year.
Chesterfield BC’s decision to abandon its bid to be a full constituent member comes just days before Derbyshire CC’s threatened referendum on the issue.
Bassetlaw DC in Nottinghamshire last night formally stated its intention to withdraw its application. A formal decision will taken at a cabinet meeting next month.
Chesterfield’s leader Tricia Gilby (Lab) slammed the county’s new Tory leader Barry Lewis for holding the poll, which was due to start on 21 June.
Cllr Gilby said the referendum was “completely unjustified” but added she had “put a stop” to Chesterfield’s application to join the CA to save taxpayers’ money being spent on the row.
Cllr Gilby added: “The government will be so busy [after the general election] trying to manage parliamentary business and the Brexit negotiations that its other policies, such as devolution, will just be kicked into the long grass. This is a further reason to halt the unnecessary expense of the referendum now.”
Derbyshire had imposed the referendum while Cllr Lewis had “repeatedly refused to meet to discuss his plans despite stating that he intended to improve partnership working”, said Cllr Gilby.
She urged the county to replace the £35m of investment she said Chesterfield would have received over five years from joining the CA.
Following Chesterfield’s decision, Cllr Lewis said: “This is absolutely the right decision…and a victory for common sense.
“The county council never believed the proposals were in the best interests of Chesterfield which would have had to compete against all the councils within the Sheffield City Region for funding from the [elected] mayor.
“If the plans had gone ahead there would have been untold costs to Derbyshire’s taxpayers in delivering services in two separate ways – one way for Chesterfield and another for the rest of the county – and making sure they ran seamlessly alongside each other.”
He said Chesterfield’s change of stance “opens up new opportunities for working in partnership”.
Chesterfield’s original attempt to join the CA was blocked by Derbyshire’s previous Labour administration, which mounted a successful legal challenge to the consultation, forcing this to be re-run were the tie-up to proceed.
Both Chesterfield and Nottinghamshire’s Bassetlaw DC felt themselves part of Sheffield’s economic area, and so applied to be full CA members.
Simon Greaves (Lab), Basstelaw’s leader, said devolution was no longer a priority for the government so joining the CA was no longer a priority.
“We now have a government in disarray, a real coalition of chaos, a delayed Queen’s Speech and very difficult Brexit negotiations they need to crack on with. If policies like devolution were on the backburner before, they’ll be pretty much extinguished now,” said Cllr Greaves.
He also raised concerns the city region’s mayor would gain “London style planning powers” and concern the district would lose some of its share of business rates which is “something that we just cannot entertain”. The fact there had been “no movement on the proposed voting arrangements” which would have given one of Bassetlaw’s two votes to Nottinghamshire CC. “I challenged these arrangements at an early stage, and am disappointed that there has been no change – effectively leaving us with a weaker voice,” said Cllr Greaves.
Bassetlaw and Chesterfield will remain non-constituent members of the CA along with North East Derbyshire, Bolsover, and Derbyshire Dales DCs.
A statement from the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership said Chesterfield’s decision “whilst entirely understandable is disappointing”.
It added: “The ability for our locally elected leaders to work across traditional administrative and county boundaries is critical on big issues such as public transport, skills investment and infrastructure. There is no doubt that this decision makes it a little harder to do this.”
The CA had been due to elect a mayor this May but this was delayed until 2018 by the dispute over Chesterfield.
This story was updated at 10.50am on 14 June to include Bassetlaw DC leader Simon Greaves’ comments.