Devolution deal is a devolved joke

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
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Last month the civic leaders of South Yorkshire, on our behalf, signed a ‘devolution’ deal with Chancellor George Osborne.

As part of this, we were promised a consultation process.

I’ve written to Sir Steve Houghton asking about this process and was told the consultation process would begin this month.

The Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, the body around which this devolution deal is centred, is a conglomeration of civic leaders and business people chaired by Barnsley council leader Sir Steve Houghton.

In their minutes last month Sir Steve states that the consultation process will begin on November 16.

I’ve searched the combined authority and council websites and made Google searches and have yet to find any consultation process or a reason for its delay.

If I were a suspicious person (which I am) I’d suspect this was a ploy to drive this deal through on the quiet with no real consultation.

This deal delivers £30m per year in devolved funding.

Compare this with the at least £68m that will have been stripped from Barnsley Council’s budget alone by 2017, the year we get the chance to elect our first metro-mayor. Factor in what will have been sliced from the other eight authority budgets that make up the region and £30m is loose change.

In return for this we have to have a mayor to oversee this budget.

The biggest argument some politicians use against devolution is that it adds layers of bureaucracy and cost to an already creaking democratic system.

This proposal strengthens this argument. The mayor would be paid at least as much as an MP with a generous expense account and a plethora of advisors and appointees.

The government argue this would add democratic accountability. This mayor would answer to the combined authority of council leaders – leaders elected on a system where 40 per cent of the vote in 2015 gained 80 per cent of the seats. Hardly democratic.

This deal does nothing to tackle the educational problems we have in a region that has been bottom of the regional league tables for the last few years. It does nothing to alter that fact that for every £1,000 spent by the government on the capital just £133 is spent in Yorkshire.

Maybe this is why there has been no consultation – our council leaders know that as soon as the public become aware of these facts the deal is seen for what it is – a devolved joke.

Coun Wayne Chadburn

Penistone Town Council