Devolution U-turn for town leaders

Mayor Ros Jones has insisted she is not walking away from Sheffield City Region's devolution deal
Mayor Ros Jones has insisted she is not walking away from Sheffield City Region's devolution deal
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Devolution is back on!

The leaders of Barnsley and Doncaster have insisted they are ‘not walking away from anything’ after talk of exploring a ‘whole Yorkshire’ devolution deal sparked howls of disapproval in Sheffield City Region.

In a surprise open letter, Ros Jones CBE, elected mayor of Doncaster, and Barnsley Council chief, Sir Stephen Houghton, said they wanted to provide clarification after a previous statement implied they could pull out of a deal set to bring £900m and devolved powers in return for an elected mayor. It was made on the day mayoral elections, scheduled for May 4, were postponed after a legal challenge.

The unprecedented letter, ‘to provide clarification’, comes after business and political leaders across Sheffield City Region lined up to criticise them.

It states it would be a ‘missed opportunity’ not to explore the proposal from West Yorkshire.

But it concludes, ‘That is not ‘playing politics’, or a parochial view, it is responsible, considered political leadership.

‘So we are not ‘walking away’ from anything – just using available time to explore opportunities that could help residents and businesses. We need to give ourselves every chance of achieving the economic and social progress we are here to deliver, and which we as politicians are accountable to the people for.’

Last week the pair sparked widespread alarm when they said they would ‘work with colleagues’ after receiving a proposal from West Yorkshire for a ‘whole Yorkshire’ devolution deal.

The new letter states, ‘In the last few days there has been much reporting of the current situation, some of which is inaccurate and has misrepresented our position as elected representatives on this matter – so we want to set matters straight’.

It then explains that both leaders want to use the time created after Sheffield City Region mayoral elections were postponed for fact finding and to ‘explore the art of the possible in how devolution of powers and funding can drive the local economy, and crucially, to make sure that this growth is inclusive, felt by all of the people and all of the places’.

Adding, ‘That is all we are saying at this stage.’