Yorkshire devolution debate underway as South Yorkshire councils call for forthcoming mayoral election to be scrapped

Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster chief executive Jo Miller
Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster chief executive Jo Miller

A debate on the future of Yorkshire devolution has got underway at Westminster Hall, as two South Yorkshire councils say the region's forthcoming mayoral election should be scrapped.

Both Doncaster and Barnsley councils have said they want the South Yorkshire mayoral election, scheduled to take place in May of this year, to be postponed.

The local authorities say this could pave the way for a 'One Yorkshire' mayor to be elected in 2020, for all or most of the region, allowing for a wider devolution deal.

They are calling for an interim mayor to be installed in the meantime, which would negate the need for a region-wide election, saving £2million in the process.

It would follow the precedent set in Greater Manchester, where crime commissioner Tony Lloyd was chosen by council leaders as interim mayor between 2015 and the election of Andy Burnham in 2017.

Supporters of the move say it would mean the Sheffield City Region would get the full powers and funding promised when the original devolution deal for the area was signed in 2015.

The councils in the Sheffield City Region would have to agree to an interim appointed mayor to chair the area’s combined authority, meaning the election planned for May is postponed until May 2020. If Yorkshire council leaders forming a so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ and the Government agree the terms of a wider Yorkshire deal, this would need Parliamentary approval.

Doncaster and Barnsley join 15 other authoriries in the region who have given their backing to a 'One Yorkshire' deal.

This is one of the issues surrounding devolution set to be discussed during this afternoon's debate, which has been sponsored by Barnsley MP, Dan Jarvis.

Today's debate comes after Barnsley and Doncaster rejected plans for a Sheffield City Region devolution deal, in favour of one for the whole region in a poll held last month.

A total of 85 per cent of voters in Doncaster supported the plans to devolve power to the whole of Yorkshire on a turnout of 20.1 per cent, while in Barnsley a total of 84.9 per cent of people voted in favour of a One Yorkshire deal, with a turnout of 22.4 per cent.

However both authorities received criticism for the wording of the poll sent out to residents.

Specifically, campaigners called them out for calling One Yorkshire a ‘deal’ and claiming it ‘could be in place by 2020’.

They also refer to a Sheffield City Region ‘proposal’ when it has been ratified in Parliament and £900m, powers and an elected mayor are there for the taking.

Both also omitted anything from government which has repeatedly insisted it will not allow either borough to join a One Yorkshire arrangement unless they finalise their own deal.

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton and Doncaster elected mayor Ros Jones called the poll, which has no legal weight, at a cost of £240,000.