Chief fears cuts in new devolution deal

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The head of Sheffield Chamber has welcomed Sheffield City Region’s devolution deal but is concerned the “euphoria” could ignore whether it means more cuts – and the responsibility to make them.

Executive director Richard Wright questioned whether Sheffield City Region was receiving comparatively less than a region which wasn’t receiving more powers.

He spoke after £30m of Government funding was announced on top of the region’s Growth Deal which committed £297m in July.

He said: “I really welcome the principle of the devolution deal because it means spending decisions will be made locally and we have to back ourselves to do that better than at national level.

“But it comes with a big responsibility and I appeal to everybody to put aside the political glass walls when it comes to those decisions.

“We must spend the money where it will deliver the best return and on programmes run by people who know what they are doing and have a good track record – not those who are just good bid writers and can run a process.

“My concern is the mass balance of money that is coming to the region and what it seems to be already earmarked for.

“I thought the money for Midland main line electrification had already been approved, maybe I’m wrong, but it does raise the question of whether this is new money.

“If we have to deliver the best return for the region will we still want to spend it on that project and will we have the authority to transfer it to something else?

“I’d like to see a mass balance of what we are getting because it’s easy to get carried away in the euphoria of a devolution deal, but overall we may be getting much less.”