‘We want devolution in Sheffield City Region’ bosses say

Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, believes the region should have mayoral elections at the earliest opportunity.
Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, believes the region should have mayoral elections at the earliest opportunity.
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One council leader has responded to The Star’s request for clarity on devolution - as dozens of business people sign a letter of support for the £900m deal.

Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said he backed plans for an elected ‘metro mayor‘ in Sheffield City Region, in return for £900m over 30 years and greater local control over transport, planning, skills and business support.

But Ros Jones in Doncaster said she had “nothing to add” to an earlier statement by Barnsley leader Sir Steve Houghton, who last month said politicians “needed time to consider next steps” after Chesterfield and Bassetlaw pulled out of the plan.

Sir Steve is on holiday, while Julie Dore of Sheffield has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, more than 80 business people have signed an open letter calling for the politicians to say whether they support a metro mayor deal.

It comes after Chesterfield and Bassetlaw dropped their bid to be full members, leaving the four South Yorkshire councils to decide whether to stay in the top flight of cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

Coun Read’s response will be welcomed after silence from council leaders sparked fears the devolution deal hung in the balance.

Many business leaders including Sir Nigel Knowles, Sheffield Chamber chief Richard Wright, Master Cutler Richard Edwards and Doncaster Airport boss Steve Gill believe it can improve prosperity.

Coun Read said he wanted to progress the deal “at the earliest opportunity.”

He added: “My view since we signed the deal back in 2015 is that we can best take the opportunities offered, by working closely with the local authorities closest to us, whose communities face similar sorts of challenges.

“I didn’t want a metro mayor, but came to accept that it was a necessary part of the deal to bring more spending and decision making out of Whitehall, and much-needed jobs and investment to Rotherham.

“Since then we have faced some setbacks which have obviously knocked us off course. At this moment it is unclear whether the government would be willing to proceed on the basis of a South Yorkshire-only geography, or even what consultation may still be required before any mayoral election.

“It’s right that we consider our options. However, my preference remains – if it is possible – to progress the deal on the table, with mayoral elections at the earliest opportunity.”

The Combined Authority will meet to discuss next steps at a meeting on the July 17.

Sign the open letter on LinkedIn: here