The head of Doncaster Chamber has said he is “committed” to devolution in Sheffield City Region, as the £900m project looks doomed.
Chief executive Daniel Fell said the Chamber believed in local control over economic decisions - but it also “sees merit” in delaying a decision until September.
Sheffield and Rotherham want it, while Doncaster and Barnsley need yet more time to “explore options,” including Yorkshire-wide devolution. The leaders of Yorkshire councils are meeting this week.
The Government has consistently said the only deal on the table is in Sheffield City Region.
Many in the private sector are frustrated at a missed chance to boost prosperity. A public consultation must be held before elections in May and the fear is devolution might end up being timed out altogether.
Mr Fell said waiting until autumn would give Sir Steve Houghton of Barnsley and Ros Jones of Doncaster time to explore other regional options.
He said: “Doncaster Chamber is a committed supporter of devolution. This is because we firmly believe that local and regional stakeholders and agencies are better placed to make decisions about our future economic prosperity than institutions and civil servants in Westminster and Whitehall are.
“Doncaster Chamber backed the original SCR devolution deal as there are some strong elements to it that will support private sector growth. However, the world has changed significantly over the last eighteen months, both economically and politically. Therefore, and despite the frustration that delays might cause to some, the Chamber sees merit in the Combined Authority’s decision to defer a decision on devolution until the Autumn whilst other regional options – including a full Yorkshire deal - are explored; we would urge for pace an decisiveness thereafter.
“The Chamber is concerned that not enough businesses have been closely involved in this debate. As such, we will be using the summer to consult with the Doncaster business community more closely about its views on devolution and we have today launch a survey to seek local business sentiment on the issue. We will be sharing responses with all partners involved in this debate.”
DEVOLUTION - from front of the queue to the back
South Yorkshire council leaders agree an ‘in principle’ devolution deal with then Chancellor George Osborne who wants to rebalance the economy from south to north.
It is set to come with a raft of new powers over transport, planning and skills and £30m-a-year for 30 years in return for an elected ‘metro mayor’.
It is the second one nationally after Manchester.
Doubts emerge for the first time.
Coun Julie Dore of Sheffield raises concerns an elected mayor would have a veto over every decision. She was also concerned a mayor would cover areas, including Chesterfield and Bassetlaw, which did not have the chance to vote.
But Doncaster elected mayor Ros Jones says its the only deal in town and “the only way of ensuring continued economic growth for the borough”.
Chesterfield tables plans to become a full member of the Sheffield City Region, meaning the town’s voters will have a vote in the mayoral elections.
Bassetlaw District Council applies to join Sheffield City Region’s devolution deal. It will continue to be part of Nottinghamshire, and retain control of all its current services. The additional devolved powers will be managed by the Combined Authority, which is made up of nine councils, and will be led by an elected mayor.
Council chiefs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire fight plans for Bassetlaw and Chesterfield respectively to ‘join’ Sheffield under its devolution deal.
Derbyshire seeks a judicial review over a public consultation, while the leader of Nottinghamshire protests to government.
Derbyshire County Council mounts a legal challenge on claiming the consultation failed to ask people in Chesterfield the right questions.
Barnsley Council leader sir Steve Houghton CBE, chair of the Combined Authority, says there are ‘significant’ concerns around the mayoral model.
He added: “We won’t make the final decision to go ahead unless we are absolutely sure that this is the best possible outcome for our residents and that there are no other options open to us.”
The judicial review rules public consultation was not held properly and must be re-run.
The move means mayoral elections planned for May must be delayed by a year until 2018.
Barnsley and Doncaster leaders say they will ‘explore’ Yorkshire-wide devolution, but they are ‘not walking away from anything’.
Chesterfield and Bassetlaw pull out of mayoral devolution deal.
Hopes are pinned on a South Yorkshire devolution deal but Barnsley and Doncaster are still delaying because they are still exploring “other options”.
Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry says: “I want to be very clear about one thing. There will not be a ‘full Yorkshire’ devolution deal.”
September 11 2017
Probably the last chance to agree to mayoral elections in May 2018 to give enough time to re-run a public consultation.