Plans for a £900m Sheffield city region devolution deal look dead in the water after Doncaster and Barnsley pulled out.
Doncaster mayor Ros Jones and Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton rejected signing up for the deal at a crunch meeting of the Combined Authority, saying they wanted to pursue a Yorkshire-wide agreement.
Without their agreement the plan for £900m funding and local powers is finished. But a ‘metro mayor’ with no powers will still be elected in May, at a cost of £1m, because it has been signed into legislation.
In a joint statement, Mrs Jones and Sir Steve said there had been major changes in circumstances since the original devolution proposal was brought forward two years ago including the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a judicial review finding against the Sheffield City Region, and both Bassetlaw and Chesterfield withdrawing from their plans to become full members of the City Region, leaving just the four South Yorkshire authorities.
They said: “We’ve carefully considered all the options. These are important decisions that we must get right for our businesses and residents. These decisions affect the next 30 years.
There is no way back once a deal is signed. When we began on this journey to Sheffield City Region devolution we were big supporters, and we still fully support devolution.
“The Government is now steering towards bigger regional, rather than city region, deals. Sheffield City Region’s deal without all the original nine local authorities is too small.
“A Yorkshire-wide devolution deal will be economically and politically advantageous. It will allow strategic interventions and public service reform. Brexit requires us to organise at scale to get us to where we need to be.
“The Yorkshire coalition of the willing is coming together and collaborating. 17 councils are signing up to a wider Yorkshire collaboration. We need to be part of this - even if we have to wait."
Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore said it was the worst piece of political vandalism she had seen in 17 years in local government.
“We have stuck to our word throughout this and shown that Sheffield is a place where you can do business. Sadly it seems Barnsley and Doncaster have burned their bridges.
“But we carry on, and Sheffield will move forward with positivity and ambition.”
Sir Steve and Mrs Jones are part of a 17-strong ‘Coalition of the Willing’ councils seeking a pan-Yorkshire deal.
Last week Secretary of State Sajid Javid offered talks on the subject for the first time, but said no council from South Yorkshire could be part of it.
Despite this, Sir Steve said: “If that means we have to wait for the prize we will. I accept the Secretary of State is reluctant to do that – our challenge is to persuade him.”