How councils’ tug of war could delay devolution plans for Sheffield City Region mayor
A tug of war over former chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse plan could scupper the timetable for a metro mayor in the Sheffield City Region.
Derbyshire County Council is taking the City Region’s combined authority to court over Chesterfield wanting to break its county ties and join the £1bn South Yorkshire devolution deal.
Derbyshire County Council leader oCoun Anne Western said the authority has been left with no choice as £1 milion in business rates would would be lost to the county coffers and put a Sheffield City Region Mayor in charge of transport and other council services.
Sir Steve Houghton CBE, leader of Barnsley Council and chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said plans to elect a metro mayor by 2017 could be put on hold.
He said: “Hopefully that will be sorted by the end of September but a lot depends on the courts. If they courts find in favour of Derby then the timetable will slip. If the courts do find in favour then we are on for next year.”
Coun Western said the recent public consultation on the proposal for Chesterfield to join Sheffield was ‘misleading and flawed’ and the High Court will sit in September to decide whether the public need to be asked their opinion again.
The legal action will come as a major blow to Sheffield, which has been far further along the process of getting more control from Whitehall than any another other area of Yorkshire.
Those that miss the 2017 deadline for metro mayor elections will have to wait until 2020.
Sir Steve said: “Derbyshire County Council is asking for the public consultation to be quashed because they don’t think Chesterfield reaches the full criteria to be a full member. If they manage to do that, we wouldn’t have a mayor in 2017.”
Despite the impending court case, he believes devolution is still worth pursuing and the region will eventually reap the rewards of having more control over its own affairs.
He said: “It’s more complex than I anticipated because the city region in our case goes from Yorkshire to the Midlands and goes across the counties and across the districts. So it’s complex but we shouldn’t let complexity get in the way of doing the right thing.
“So we have to get away from traditional boundaries and to recognise that to grow the economy, you need to make decisions about the economic footprint. If you’re not doing that, you’re not maximizing the growth potential.”
Sheffield City Region is due to get £30m in spending power annually over the next 30 years after ex-Chancellor Osborne announced the plan in October 2015.