Right now, all four local authorities in South Yorkshire should be planning for the May 2018 election of the first Directly-elected Mayor for the Sheffield City Region. The election of that mayor will provide the opportunity for an additional £30million of Government money to come to the area to improve economic development, transport links and skills training. All of these have been welcomed by all the local councils and by business leaders and the wider community.
I’m very strongly of the view that there would be immense advantages for areas within north Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to be part of those arrangements as well. Their economic prospects are fundamentally related to South Yorkshire. But, it is for them to decide.
Any devolution proposal is a compromise between competing perspectives and priorities. But disagreements should be healthy and constructive. In South Yorkshire, we are in real danger of making ‘the best’ the enemy of ‘the much better’ to the disadvantage of us all.
The Secretary of State suggests we go ahead with the devolution deal which has already been agreed for the four South Yorkshire districts. That appears eminently sensible.
Everyone needs to recognise that there is no other deal on the table, nor is there a realistic possibility of any such deal being agreed in the immediate future. The Minister says that, if at some stage in the future there is another deal offered for all or part of Yorkshire and some districts want to join that arrangement, they would be able to do so. If they don’t, the existing arrangements would respect that and carry on funding it.
This seems a win/win situation for everyone. South Yorkshire gets a directly-elected mayor, and immediate additional money and powers. If, in the long term, a different proposal is offered, districts can choose to opt for that without encumbrance.
From a personal point of view, I do not believe an elected mayor for the whole of Yorkshire is feasible and will not work.
But that is a debate for another day. Right now, we need to press ahead with the agreed deal for the benefit of the whole of South Yorkshire.