Sheffield chamber’s ‘list of attributes’ for new regional mayor

Jill Thomas.
Jill Thomas.

The Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has unveiled a list of ‘attributes, powers and responsibilities’ it believes the newly elected mayor of the Sheffield City Region should possess in order to successfully lead the region forward.

As a requirement of the Government’s £1.3 billion Devolution Deal, the region is set to vote for a mayor in May 2017, who will be responsible for making decisions that help to grow the economy and create jobs.

However, the plans faced uncertainty this week after Ros Jones, elected mayor of Doncaster, claimed it is “highly improbable” the elections will be held next May as plans for a regional elected mayor have been dogged by ‘government uncertainty’, reluctance from regional leaders and a legal challenge from Derbyshire County Council.

Despite this, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has consulted with members and put together six key qualities for the mayor, who will possess new powers and funding to improve infrastructure, transport, skills, housing and other drivers of business growth.

The key attributes highlighted are:-

* A proven track record in building a commercially, economically viable and sustainable economy

* Independent and non-parochial

* A mayor with charisma and presence who is able to “sell” the region to the rest of the world

* Ability to mould local authorities’ leaders and chief executives into a single cohesive body working for the greater good of the region

* The mayor has to be strategic but then be capable of ensuring a strategy is implemented.

* New perspective and vision - not somebody who is a “safe pair of hands” because they know how to “play the game.”

Chamber president Jill Thomas said: “We are at an interesting stage in developing a country for the future. The UK is far too centralised and Westminster and Whitehall needs to delegate more power and resources to the regions through a much more ambitious devolution programme.

“Initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse give the Sheffield City Region the opportunity to develop economic entities that can complement London and rival any city or region in the world but they need a new kind of politics nationally and locally. Scotland, Wales and Ireland have strong independent voices and so should we, up to and including our own Barnett Formula.”

The chamber believes that if the government and combined authority get it right, then the mayor can be a great asset to the region, cutting across authority boundaries and being a figurehead on a local, national and international scale.

However, the chamber has also stated that devolved money needs to be spent more effectively and it is critical the new mayor ensures there is strong team working across the region.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “What we cannot avoid is that the Mayor is required because of the Devolution Deal, and this is an economic deal and so the mayor has to drive improvements in the economy. So does the mayor cut across the authority of the Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership? Businesses will hope not but time will tell.

“The biggest issue is whether the right person will be allowed to do the job because they will not be restricted by traditional areas of authority and “legal responsibilities” of local authorities.

“If the system is not loosened enough for the mayor to make a difference and if enough powers and resources are not devolved, then this will not work properly. Politically we may be able to justify it but the people and businesses of this region deserve more than that. It’s about jobs, wealth, health after all.”