Sheffield on track to take devolved powers - report out today

Sheffield  Coun Leigh Bramall
Sheffield Coun Leigh Bramall
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Sheffield is on the right track to take more control from Whitehall, a leading economist has said in a report out today.

The region is believed to have the structures needed – including a city region, Local Enterprise Partnership and combined authority – to take on new powers.

Devolving powers from London to other areas of the country has become a hot topic since the Scottish referendum, and now economist Jim O’Neill has given a vote of confidence to 15 ‘metro’ areas in the City Growth Commission report.

Sheffield Council hopes such a move would give it more control on how money generated in the city is spent – currently all but five per cent is decided by Government. 
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Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said making budget decisions with so little leeway was ‘like having one hand tied behind your back’.

He added: “We want greater powers to look at things like the planning system, which is a national system so we have limited say within it.

“We can’t even put in place a scheme that restricts landlords from advertising properties in student areas without going through all sorts of loops.

“I’d like us to be able to look at expanding the tram system but we haven’t got the freedom to raise the money.”

Devolving more powers would also strip back red tape involved in bidding for Government funds and allow cities to compete globally, said Coun Bramall.

It could also have more sway in deciding what to prioritise for the area, rather than being stuck with a ‘one size fits all’ approach made in London.

It would build on Sheffield’s city deal, where some funding was devolved and spent on apprenticeships. The city now has one of the highest rates of young people in apprenticeships.

Coun Bramall added: “With greater control over funding generated in our cities, we can channel money where it needs to be, and get our economy booming.”