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Updated: South Yorkshire leaders break the devolution deadlock

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Mayor Dan Jarvis and the four leaders of South Yorkshire’s councils have come to an agreement to pave the way forward for devolution in their region, potentially unlocking £900m in funding over 30 years

Following months of political wrangling, the Labour politicians have written to communities secretary James Brokenshire to say they have had a breakthrough on how the Sheffield City Region deal, which was originally signed in 2015 but collapsed in 2017 after Doncaster and Barnsley pulled out to pursue a One Yorkshire arrangement, can be taken forward.

Although a mayoral election was held in 2018, the funding and powers associated with the deal have not been released by government.

The letter states that after “productive conversations” the mayor and leaders have managed to find a way that would allow government to unlock the Sheffield City Region devolution deal, while also furthering wider devolution ambitions.

It asks that millions of pounds in funding is unlocked for the Sheffield City Region on the understanding that each authority is able to move to other devolution arrangements, should they wish to do so, in 2022 - the end of mayor Jarvis’ current term of office.

It said: “We are all clear that we should and will actively support each other in the achievement of our individual devolution ambitions…each council has the right to make its own choices about its devolution arrangements, including the right to join, or not to join, a wider Yorkshire grouping from the outset if that is what individual places wish to do.

“None of that should be to the detriment of any individual council that wishes to remain in the current devolution arrangements.”

The five signatories say they believe that the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority should remain in its current form until the end of mayor Jarvis’s term, and after that, those councils that do not see their future in a South Yorkshire arrangement “must be free to join an alternative devolution group”.

The letter says a Sheffield City Region CA made up of just Sheffield and Rotherham would be comparable in size with the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CA and as such “must benefit” from the retention of powers as stated in the current Sheffield City Region devolution deal. It says proportionate resources should be calculated pro rata.

It calls on the government to draw up a Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Order to provide relevant powers and related governance arrangements, while conceding that this will require “significant work” between respective officials.

The letter concluded: “This solution also gives effect to the mandate upon which Mayor Jarvis was elected last year and is in line with the community poll held by Barnsley and Doncaster, coupled with a guarantee for all of us that in working together pragmatically, collaboratively and with purpose, no detriment will ensue.”

Mayor Jarvis said in a statement that he was “delighted” to have brokered the joint devolution position. “I believe [this] will enable us to access the powers and resources that our region needs to continue its economic transformation,” he said, adding that the letter “accords with the government’s own stated position regarding the next steps for devolution”.

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said the “completion of the Sheffield City Region deal” remained a “priority for government”.

 “We have received a letter from the mayor and local leaders proposing a way forward which will now be carefully considered.”

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