Sheffield devolution to be agreed ‘within weeks’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

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New home rule powers for Sheffield could be agreed by next month, Nick Clegg has said.

The Deputy Prime Minister has said devolved powers could be approved for both Sheffield and Leeds city regions before George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on December 3.

Speaking to The Star at the Northern Futures event in Leeds, Mr Clegg said Sheffield Council’s Labour leadership are in agreement with him about the positive potential of devolving powers.

Details of what powers will be transferred from Whitehall to Sheffield are still being finalised, but are expected to include greater control on transport and house-building decisions.

Mr Clegg said: “It means more jobs, more apprentices and more control over decisions on things like transport investment. It is about making sure training and skills provision fit the needs of local businesses rather than done to some sort of Whitehall blueprint that doesn’t fit the area.”

But Mr Clegg added the nation’s financial problems mean local authorities can still expect further cutbacks whoever is in power in the next Government.

“If central Government cannot give more money, at least we can give more freedom and more powers,” he said.

Mr Clegg said he also hopes to see investment agreed in the Autumn Statement for the replacement of ‘decrepit’ PACER trains on the northern rail network and progress on electrifying lines between Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.

His proposals for electrifying routes between the three cities have been criticised by the RMT union, who said it was ‘hypocritical’ to suggest the idea when the Government is planning cuts to the Northern and Trans-Pennine franchises.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “This is pure political posturing and his electorate in Sheffield will not be fooled.”

But the electrification plans for the northern rail routes have been welcomed by the Campaign for Better Transport.