Star Comment: Devolution is done it is time to heal old wounds and power ahead

At last! Devolution is finally, virtually, done. After two years of deadlock the region is set to power ahead with new powers and £900m of funding.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 3:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 4:35 pm

The outpouring of relief that accompanied the news shows how important the deal is to Sheffield City Region.

Now, it is hoped our political leaders can work together, after two years of frustration on all sides.

I was one of many who couldn’t believe Barnsley and Doncaster would give up guaranteed cash and power to pursue a One Yorkshire dream. A dream the government repeatedly said could never happen.

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Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore at the signing of the draft devolution deal with George Osborne and Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton last year

We need ambitious leaders, but that was the wrong project – and cost us more than two years at a time when other devolved areas were racing away with the rewards.

The other huge lesson was that politics has no rules. All four council leaders signed up to devolution three times. Then two walked away – with no consequences or repercussions. Try doing that with a mortgage, merger or a marriage.

But all that is in the past, barring a huge upset at a final meeting later this month and a public consultation. It is a time to heal old wounds, rebuild reputations and look to the future.

Here is what should happen: Dan Jarvis should stop being a part-time mayor – the deal means he can now draw a salary. He should resign as Barnsley MP and be a full-time figurehead to rival Andy Burnham, the high-profile face of Manchester. And he should work with all sectors, especially business, to make the most of the deal.

The Star Business Editor David Walsh.

A full power mayor will also give weight to an ambitious economic plan being sent to government with a request for £1bn funding.

And it puts the region in pole position for further devolution of government powers from Westminster and, potentially, from Brussels.

Amid the grim economic predictions of Brexit, which some argue is already costing jobs in our region, and after 10 years of deep public sector funding cuts, devolution has taken on even greater importance.

Our residents, businesses, universities – everyone – is hoping our leaders now commit to not cocking this up.