Column: Political rows proving Sheffield is attractive

As far as endorsements go, they're pretty good ones.

Wednesday, 17th August 2016, 10:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th August 2016, 11:49 am
Derbyshire Labour group leader Anne Western.

Chesterfield and Bassetlaw have chosen to ‘join Sheffield’ - and it’s gone down very badly with Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire county councils, which ‘own’ them.

In an unprecedented move, their leaders have issued long complaints about the plans.

Derbyshire County Council is even seeking a judicial review in the High Court to block the move.

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So what on earth is going on?

Chesterfield Borough Council and Bassetlaw District Council - which includes Worksop - have applied to join Sheffield City Region, which is powering ahead with a £1.3billion devolution deal.

It includes local control over areas including public transport, adult skills, business growth and major planning and investment projects.

Devolved cash is already being spent through a £222million infrastructure fund, £17m Skills Bank and a £50m Growth Hub for business.

Chesterfield is set to benefit from more than £18m of investment in development in the town, as well as £2.8m for a road which will kickstart construction of the £400m Peak Resort plan at Unstone in September. What’s not to like?

On top of this, having the structures and systems in place could open the door to who knows what else?

In February, Lord Jim O’Neill, commercial secretary to the Treasury, said devolution could go “much further” and some central government departments could cease to exist if it was done properly.

The new Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy MP visited Rotherham recently and said powers from Brussels, that are returning due to Brexit, could be devolved directly to the regions.

So Chesterfield and Bassetlaw are backing a winner, while their county council leaders are looking a bit sour grapes, especially since a similar devolution plan across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire has collapsed.

But the trade off for devolution is an elected mayor. Manchester is set to have shadow home secretary Andy Burnham. As the official Labour candidate he is a shoo-in for the job.

Over here, the Labour candidate will also inevitably win next May. I’m reliably informed it will be either: Richard Caborn, deputy Sheffield City Council leader Leigh Bramall, Sheffield MP Clive Betts or Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton.

Who would be your (Hobson’s) choice?

And why?