Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis hails "great day" as devolution deal finally becomes law

Metro mayor Dan Jarvis has hailed a "great day for South Yorkshire" after the long-awaited devolution deal handing over new powers and funding from Whitehall was finally signed into law.
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The order creating Yorkshire's first devolution deal was signed today by Minister Simon Clarke after several years of wrangling over the make-up of the Sheffield City Regional mayoral combined authority.

The landmark deal will see Mr Jarvis handed £30m a year in annual investment funding as well as control of a £35m annual education budget and powers over transport, skills, housing and regeneration.

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Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Pic: Chris EtchellsSheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Pic: Chris Etchells
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Pic: Chris Etchells
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The Government says the powers, already enjoyed by metro mayors in areas including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the Tees Valley, will "equip local leaders with the tools and resources to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic".

Mr Jarvis, who is also MP for Barnsley Central, said: “The landmark South Yorkshire Devolution deal has today been signed into law.

"This is a great day for South Yorkshire because millions of pounds in additional funding and new powers are available to support jobs and businesses, unlock opportunities for our people and deliver better public services.

“Devolution will open up our local knowledge and networks, bring power closer to the people, and help us reshape our economy and society in a way which reflects our values and priorities.

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"I am determined to create a stronger, greener and fairer South Yorkshire and North and this is just the start of our journey.”

The Sheffield City Region devolution deal was first signed in 2015 under a deal agreed by then-Chancellor George Osborne and the leaders of Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham councils.

But it collapsed in 2017 when Barnsley and Doncaster signalled that they wanted to be part of a wider 'One Yorkshire' devolution deal for the entire region.

The Government opposed One Yorkshire and when Boris Johnson was elected with a large majority last December supporters of the scheme accepted they would have to accept smaller city region deals like those in South Yorkshire.

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West Yorkshire hopes to elect its own metro mayor as part of a devolution deal next May and talks are ongoing in North Yorkshire and Hull and the East Riding.

Local Government Minister Mr Clarke said: “We have an ambitious agenda to deliver devolution across Yorkshire and getting this deal over the line is an important step towards that.

“It will deliver real benefits to the people of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, putting decision-making in the hands of these communities and ensuring local leaders have the tools they need to drive forward the city region’s recovery from coronavirus.”

The signing of the order comes after the deal was debated in the House of Lords last week as part of the legislative process.

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Former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP Lord Blunkett congratulated Mr Jarvis on "his patience and his skill in bringing people together, and the local authority leaders and councils for at last coming together and being prepared to see a way forward which is beneficial to our local residents".

He added: "Combined, as it will be in the future, with the development of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority mayor, it is possible that we can build incrementally to real co-operation across the historic county of Yorkshire, with a population somewhat greater than that of Scotland."

But Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, a former leader of the Green Party, said: "The stuttering, agonised birth of the combined authority could be taken as a case study for how not to do devolution—imposed from the centre, with the fractious involvement of a handful of local people, legal action and conflict."

She added: "This order is not a solution, and it cannot provide a long-term way forward. As we seek to rebuild from the shock of Covid-19 and face the climate crisis and the danger of social and economic collapse from poverty and inequality, we need to build back better. We should really start with democracy."