“I wouldn’t recommend this to others, it’s a very large amount of work" - Dan Jarvis on devolution, balancing being mayor and an MP and what’s in store for the Sheffield City Region
Mayor Dan Jarvis has admitted he has a ‘decision to make’ on whether to continue working as both mayor and an MP, as he discusses the ‘large amount of work’ it has taken to deliver South Yorkshire’s devolution deal.
Speaking after the devolution deal was formally ratified in Parliament, Sheffield City Region (SCR) Mayor Dan Jarvis said he had a ‘decision to make’ when the mayoral term ends in 2022 on whether to continue as mayor.
He currently is working the job of SCR mayor and MP for Barnsley Central on his MP salary.
A salary for mayor has not been decided and the decision lies with an independent body.
Mayor Jarvis said she has been working ‘seven days a week’ with no time off in order to do both jobs as MP and as mayor for South Yorkshire.
He conceded he can’t continue in both roles in the future but said he would carry on until the mayoral term ends in 2022 to ‘get the deal off the ground’.
“I have worked my guts out to get this deal over the line. I’ve done this job seven days a week without a break and I’ve done it for nothing because I really care about this place,” he said.
"I’ve made this commitment for this mayoral terms and it would be extremely irresponsible in a time of crisis to say we’ve done the deal so that will be the end of my time.
“I’ve never said this was a long term arrangement so inevitably there will be a decision to be made but for the next few months at least will be to drive the devolution deal forward and make it deliver the benefits.
“I know it was an unusual and controversial decision, some people did like it others didn’t. Nobody has ever been able to point to something that I’ve done or said that questions my ability to do this job and my job as MP.
“I wouldn’t recommend this to others, it’s a very large amount of work and the only people who suffer are me and family. I will keep going because I have a commitment to South Yorkshire.
“At some point I’ll have to make a choice about what I do but this arrangement can’t continue long-term.
“But for over two years, seven days a week, I’ve done this job for nothing because there isn’t a salary. Some might like to ask the question what would’ve happened if I hadn't won because there isn’t a salary?”
Commenting on what is in store for the SCR now that devolution has been done, the mayor said the region had to ‘look big’ in order to get through the pandemic.
“The Sheffield City Region will only work if all the partners are onside and that’s what we’ve got now. I’ve been really impressed with all the region’s councils and anchor institutions in recent weeks and months have all stepped up to the plate,” he said.
“That’s how we’ll transform South Yorkshire, having one team in the public and private sector.
“The missing piece of that jigsaw is Government - that’s why I called for a new deal for the North, for massive investment to truly balance the national economy away from this London, South East focus.
“South Yorkshire needs to be levelled up, not just in the economy, but skills, education and health. But we can’t do it on our own, this is a hand-up not a hand-out.”
Looking forward, major SCR backed capital projects and schemes are in the pipeline across the county.
Sheffield alone will benefit from three major capital investment projects with the help of SCR money.
Over £6 million is being given to help further accelerate work done on the Parkwood site in which sits the former Ski Village complex.
Sheffield Council announced a 150-year lease with Xtreme Sports to provide a modern ski slope, mountain biking trails and a retail and dining hub. It is expected to create 400 jobs and bring a million visitors a year. But in this current economic climate, delays are expected.A funding injection to Sheffield Council would allow them to accelerate the scheme and build the new access road and clear site in advance of the commercial development, whilst allowing ‘time for confidence to return to the economy’.
Another £4 million of Sheffield City Region money has been earmarked to improve the town centre.
The money will be used to create three new spaces: a landscaped pocket park on Block G and a small square on Carver Street with seating terraces for adjoining cafes and civic space. This will expand the Peace Gardens between the Town Hall and proposed Radisson Blu hotel on Pinstone Street.
Sheffield will also benefit from a large slice of £2.6 million to install electric vehicle charging points around the city for cars and e-bikes.
South Yorkshire will have 229 charging stations across the region but Sheffield would benefit the most, especially in and around the town centre.
Sheffield City Region bosses are also looking at the expansion of the Supertram network in the future.
Sheffield alone could see future lines and stops in places like Beighton, Stocksbridge, Heeley, Millhouses, Totley, Chapeltown, Woodhouse and Handsworth using existing rail routes.
Places like Meadowhead and other stops along the A61 Chesterfield Road could also be used in a later expansion plan.
The combined authority has also noted the findings of a recent review into the county’s buses which was found to be ‘substandard’ in many areas.
A seven point plan has been unveiled in the short term in order to make changes in organisational structure and to identify where residents need buses the most following years of changes and route cuts.
In the longer-term, SCR bosses will seriously consider the option of public ownership of buses through franchising but this will need extra investment from Government.
On the issue of devolution itself, the SCR will receive around £900 million over the next 30 years and powers include a mayoral council tax precept.
Mayor Jarvis will also be able to have borrowing power in order to get more funds.
The deal was signed in 2015 but Barnsley and Doncaster backed out and opted for a hypothetical ‘One Yorkshire’ deal.
But an agreement was reached which meant both councils could leave the Sheffield City Region deal provided both Sheffield and Rotherham councils didn’t lose powers or money per head.
“This is undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in politics,” Mayor Jarvis said.
“It was a perfect problem in the sense that the national focus was on Brexit and that consumed most politicians, we had a very difficult challenge in South Yorkshire in not having an agreement on how to proceed.
“I’m determined now to seize this opportunity and to really make this work and use it to deliver some really meaningful benefits for our residents - they deserve the best.
“Whilst it has been hard and we’ve finally done it, this is only the beginning of the journey.”
One of the powers the mayor has with the devolution deal is the ability to raise money through a precept on residents’ council tax bills.
The mayor said he was supportive of the idea to raise money to fund a specific area of policy but ruled this out during his tenure at least until 2022.
“I think there would be merit in a pledge for a mayoral precept for a specific thing that we would raise money for,” he said.
“This could be a focus on public transport for example, I can absolutely see the case. However, I believe, a mayoral precept should require a manifesto commitment and I can say for certain that there won’t be a mayoral precept in this term up to 2022.
“I think it should be in a manifesto and get the consent of the voting public before implementing it.”