100 days of South Yorkshire devolution: what next?

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis
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It’s now more than 100 days since South Yorkshire elected its first Metro Mayor - yet he still doesn’t have any powers and can’t claim a multi-million pound pot of money.

Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis was elected as the first Sheffield City Region Mayor in June but hasn’t been able to take the reigns because of rows between the four council leaders in Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham.

Sheffield and Rotherham are happy with a Sheffield City Region (SCR) Mayor but Doncaster and Barnsley want a One Yorkshire Mayor covering the whole of the county.

All four South Yorkshire leaders signed the SCR devolution deal back in 2015 but Doncaster and Barnsley then did a U-turn and opted to support a wider Yorkshire deal.

Both authorities say signing the SCR deal would be a stepping-stone towards a bigger One Yorkshire plan and want assurances they can do this. Sheffield and Rotherham want to sign the current offer before discussing the prospect of a Yorkshire deal.

While residents across the region face drastic cuts to public services, millions of pounds of Mayoral money remains untouched.

There is £30m sitting in a Treasury bank account waiting to be spent this year. Each week £576,923 remains unclaimed. So far, £9,807,691 has mounted up.

Mr Jarvis is in favour of a wider Yorkshire deal. He wants to get the South Yorkshire deal signed and pursue a wider county deal with the rest of Yorkshire by 2020.

Eighteen of the region’s 20 councils support a One Yorkshire deal but Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire wrote to all of them to say the Government is 'not prepared' to discuss the proposals if they include any of the authorities which make up SCR.

This week Local Government Minister Jake Berry re-enforced this. He said: “We have been really clear that we want the South Yorkshire devolution deal to be fully implemented before we start discussions about another form of Yorkshire devolution which would break up or in any way seek to split up that South Yorkshire deal.

“Only when that happens can we start conversations about the One Yorkshire deal. You can’t have a second devolution or devolution of your perfect geography until you’ve at least got your first devolution deal.

“I’m really personally disappointed that we haven’t made more progress in Yorkshire. It seems to me that it is the leaders of South Yorkshire and their failure to go out and consult on powers which seems to be the delay.”

Thinktank Centre for Cities warns in its report Cities Outlook 2018 that places without a Metro Mayor could be left behind.

It says: “The original devolution deals that the Government struck with particular areas are likely to be the first of many, and have opened the door to further rounds of devolution and access to national funding.

“This means that those big cities that have not been able to agree an initial deal, such as Leeds and Nottingham, are increasingly being left behind.”