'No deal on devolution is my biggest frustration' - South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis latest on deadlock on devolved deal

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has said Government not engaging with devolution has been his 'biggest frustration' since he passed 100 days in office.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 5:36 pm
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 5:40 pm
SCR Mayor Dan Jarvis

The mayor said he is working on a three-pronged devolution strategy to get the 2015 South Yorkshire deal signed, push for greater mayoral powers and pursue a wider county deal with the rest of Yorkshire, all by 2020.

Mr Jarvis, who heads up the Sheffield City Region, includes Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley. The four authorities are currently at deadlock on how the region should proceed with the prospect of devolved powers and cash.

SCR Mayor Dan Jarvis

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All four South Yorkshire leaders signed the Sheffield City Region devolution deal back in 2015 with the then Chancellor George Osborne.

But Doncaster and Barnsley staged a U-turn and opted to support a wider Yorkshire deal. Both authorities have said signing the Sheffield City Region deal would be a stepping-stone towards a bigger county-wide 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.

Last month, Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire penned a letter to all the region's 20 councils, 18 of which support a 'One Yorkshire' devolution deal, to say the Government is 'not prepared' to discuss the proposals if they include any of the authorities which make up the Sheffield City Region.

Mr Jarvis said: "What we need is meaningful engagement from Government and perhaps one of the biggest frustrations in my first 100 days is I've been clear I want to work with them to get a deal done - I'm on to my second secretary of state already.

"It is vital that Government engage meaningfully across Yorkshire to debate the relative merits of a wider Yorkshire deal.

"More than anyone, I want to make progress with the city region deal and that's why I'm working to reach that agreement but that has to be a deal that is agreed by the five of us in South Yorkshire with national government.

"Neither Rotherham or Sheffield are ideologically opposed to a wider Yorkshire deal - they want to see the 2015 deal done first. We're not actually that far from an agreement in the sense all of us agree we're not going to get a wider Yorkshire deal in the short term so we need a stepping stone.

"But for Barnsley and Doncaster to commit to that deal, they need a tangible degree of progress from the Government that they acknowledge the fact the majority of council leaders in Yorkshire want something different.

"I need the Government to engage meaningfully with that process in a way that they haven't done to date. I'll be meeting with the Secretary of State for a third time when Parliament returns in September."

The mayor said co-operation between the four councils is improving and stressed it was never going to easy.

"We have got good working relationships with the local authorities across South Yorkshire and that in itself is progress because we don't have the same culture in South Yorkshire of cross party of working between the councils in the way they have in Greater Manchester," he said.

"Devolution is not something I can deliver myself, I have to do it with others in the four councils and with Government - it is part of the jigsaw for an arrangement for the rest of Yorkshire as well."

A wider Yorkshire deal has been criticised by some as an 'emotional argument'. But Mr Jarvis said detailed economic figures were coming to prove the case it made sense for all four corners of the county to come together.

He said: "Very detailed economic modelling is being done and that will be presented to the Yorkshire leaders in the very near future and I'm confident that will demonstrate a clear economic necessity for the wider Yorkshire arrangement - I'm confident in that argument.

"Above all else, a move to a wider Yorkshire deal needs to be premised on the economic benefits. If they can't be evidenced, then that sense of identity whilst incredibly important, will not be enough.

"People who are supporters of this wider Yorkshire deal will have to showcase the hard economic data and that work is being done and I'm confident it will strengthen the case."