Two councils pull out of Sheffield City Region devolution deal

Sheffield City Region.
Sheffield City Region.

A devolution deal - which is set to bring money and powers to the region - has been dealt a major blow after two councils pulled out of the agreement.

The Sheffield City Region devolution deal would see an elected mayor take responsibility for transport budgets and strategic planning and have access to £900m of government money over the next 30 years.

Elections for the regional mayor - whose area would stretch from Barnsley and Doncaster to the Derbyshire Dales - was due to be held in May earlier this year.

But the public vote was postponed following a successful legal challenge by Derbyshire County Council, which claimed people in Chesterfield had not been properly consulted. The Government has said the polls will now be held in May 2018 at the earliest.

But the wide-ranging plans were dealt two hammer blows this week after Chesterfield Borough Council announced it was withdrawing from the agreement, while Bassetlaw District Council confirmed it no longer wants full constituent membership.

Councillor Tricia Gilby, Chesterfield Borough Council’s leader, said the authority had pulled out to 'avoid an unnecessary waste of public money' on a referendum called by Derbyshire County Council’s leader Councillor Barry Lewis.

Last week Derbyshire County Council announced its intention to hold a postal referendum of all Chesterfield borough residents over the age of 18 about whether they want the town to become part of the Sheffield City Region. Coun Lewis had said it was important for Chesterfield residents to have their say.

Sheffield City Region is also required to hold a public consultation into the plans. This would have meant public money being spent twice to ask the same question in a matter of weeks.

Councillor Gilby said: "There is little appetite from our residents to take part in yet another vote so soon after the local elections and the general election."

Councillor Simon Greaves, leader of Bassetlaw District Council, said the authority has pulled out over concerns about the nature of the deal being offered.

He said: "We now have a Government in disarray, a real coalition of chaos, a delayed Queen's Speech and very difficult Brexit negotiations they need to crack on with. If policies like devolution were on the backburner before, they'll be pretty much extinguished now.

"In terms of the deal, the Government has made it clear that there is a need for Bassetlaw to accept London style planning powers for an elected Mayor. This was never in the deal that I signed up to.

"We are not London, and one of our key democratic functions in Bassetlaw is that local councillors are accountable to their communities for the planning decisions they make. This would not happen if an elected mayor was in position with a planning mandate in Bassetlaw and we won't entertain it."