The Star Says: Judgment withheld on devolution deal

Have your say

What do we think of it all then? This devolution deal.

Sheffield is set to receive £900m over the next 30 years thanks to a ‘historic’ deal.

From 2017 the city region will vote for a directly-elected Mayor who will oversee a range of powers including transport budgets and planning.

All very exciting and new no doubt for the politicians and power-brokers but what does it mean for families and businesses in our area?

Devolution may sound very nice with it bringing decision-making to people in the area rather than from Westminster but is it what we really want?

The new Mayor will act as Chair to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority and will exercise a range of powers devolved from central Government.

In 2012 the people of Sheffield were asked whether we wanted a mayor and the result wasn’t even close.

The answer was No with a massive 65 per cent of those who voted saying they didn’t want one.

But now we’ll get one whether we like it or not. Not very democratic and not the most auspicious of starts for this brave new world.

And what of the funding that will be coming our way.

£900m over 30 years appears a very generous amount. However, Manchester City has invested roughly £470m in their staff infrastructure over the past five years – that’s Manchester City the football club, not Manchester the city.

So £30m per year, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that big a sum – it couldn’t even buy Raheem Sterling to drive the trains on the newly electrified line, when it is finally finished.

Look, we’re not setting out to be deliberately negative here. When the European Union Objective 2 money arrived to transform Sheffield city centre the difference was tangible.

Ours is a region that doesn’t generate the vast amounts of wealth that London and the south-east does and this is Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s grand idea for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

In an area of red there is bound to scepticism about a Tory chancellor’s motives.

We must give him the benefit of the doubt.

But it does feel very much as though this is being forced on us. Who knows; it could prove to be the best thing that’s happened.

You’ll forgive us for reserving our judgment for a while yet.