Sheffield devolution row hits 'transformational' multi-billion pound plan

A business chief says the region’s £900m devolution deal must be agreed before a multi-billion pound ‘transformational plan’ can be submitted to government.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 11:56 pm
LEP chair James Muir at the Manufacturing Forum event, with Master Cutler Nick Cragg.

James Muir, chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, is set to ask for billions to reverse the region’s dire economic figures.

But without a finalised devolution deal “there were no prizes for guessing what the answer will be.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Manufacturing Forum, he added: “We need to go to government with a plan. There’s a good case to get a lot more money than today. But it has to be inclusive and create robust business growth and improve skills.”

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The region was 30 per cent underperforming compared to similar areas in Europe renowned for coal and steel.

SCR was the third lowest ranked of 38 LEP areas for productivity and the average Sheffield worker’s output was worth £20,000 annually, compared to £16,000 in Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster - and £24,000 nationally.

Meanwhile, a no-deal Brexit would be “cataclysmic” for the region, and knock eight per cent off the value of its £39bn economy - the same impact as a “global war.”

Mr Muir added: “Do you think we can afford to talk about ‘One Yorkshire’ give the situation I have outlined?”

The SCR devolution deal has been stuck for two years after Barnsley and Doncaster pulled out to pursue a ‘One Yorkshire’ ambition for one mayor covering the county.

The Sheffield deal is worth £30m-a-year for 30 years and includes control over transport, housing and skills.

Earlier this month, prime minister Boris Johnson insisted it had to be finalised before he would consider other arrangements.

Currently, SCR mayor Dan Jarvis has £2m funding over two years from the Mayoral Capacity Fund and ‘certain public transport powers’. The Local Enterprise Partnership is the business arm of the SCR Combined Authority.