Doncaster MP in frame to be South Yorkshire mayor as devolution deal moves forward

(L-R) Sir Stephen Houghton, Lord Blunkett, Caroline Fline, Julie Dore and Richard Caborn
(L-R) Sir Stephen Houghton, Lord Blunkett, Caroline Fline, Julie Dore and Richard Caborn

As Chancellor George Osborne details the devolution proposal for the Sheffield City Region, which would see people in South Yorkshire voting in a Directly Elected Mayor in 2017, a Doncaster MP has been put into the frame as one of the contenders.

Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint, has been suggested as one of the possible candidates for the position of mayor for the Sheffield City Region, comprised of the following nine local authority areas: Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham and Sheffield

Here are profiles on the five figures believed to be in the frame:

• Caroline Flint

The Don Valley MP reached the upper echelons in Westminster as a Minister under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and was a leading figure in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet where she earned widespread praise for her handling of the shadow energy brief.

However, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s new leader saw her decide to move to the backbenches but there will be many who think that such an experienced and talented politician should have a bigger stage.

Would the post of Sheffield City Region elected mayor be big enough to make Ms Flint consider a future outside the Commons?

Sir Stephen Houghton

Since it became clear that the Government would insist on elected mayors as the price for devolution deals, a popular parlour game in Yorkshire council circles has been to speculate on who might get these new roles.

But ask people in local government who they think will be the first Sheffield City Region mayor and the answer is almost always ‘Steve Houghton’.

Sir Stephen is the leader of Barnsley Council and chairman of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority. A former chairman of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Assembly he has been a significant voice in the region for many years.

His election would represent continuity and help reassure those concerned that the Sheffield City Region will be dominated politically by its biggest city.

• Lord Blunkett

Having only just stepped down after serving the people of Sheffield Brightside for almost 30 years in a career as MP which included three Cabinet roles, David, now Lord, Blunkett could be forgiven for wanting to take a break from frontline politics.

But there will be plenty of people in South Yorkshire who want to establish the importance of the elected mayor role by filling it with a genuine political heavyweight and Lord Blunkett would certainly fit that bill.

A former leader of Sheffield City Council, becoming elected mayor and a return to local government would see his political career come full circle.

• Julie Dore

Coun Dore has led the city region’s biggest authority through a tough period as it tries to balance the books in response to major cuts in Government funding and enjoys a national profile as the leader of one of England’s biggest cities.

Initiatives such as the Fairness Commission, closer working with the NHS on health and social care, and the drive to promote Sheffield as a city of opportunity as part of a North of England triangle with Manchester and Leeds have been widely recognised.

• Richard Caborn

Mr Caborn stepped down from the Commons in 2010 after 27 years as the MP for Sheffield Central.

Despite leaving frontline politics, the former Sports Minister remains very active in South Yorkshire and is currently taking a leading role in the development of Sheffield’s Olympic Legacy Park.

He has argued passionately for devolution and might relish the opportunity to play a role in putting theory into practice.