‘We should already have this money’ – South Yorkshire will have to fight for millions of transport cash due to devolution deadlock

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A business leader has said South Yorkshire would’ve already been given a slice of millions of Government transport cash if they had a working devolution deal.

Richard Wright, who heads up Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, has called the current situation on devolution ‘extremely frustrating’.

Mr Wright said the renewal and expansion of Supertram ‘must be a priority’.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced South Yorkshire and nine other regions were in the running to receive Government cash to improve transport systems.

But areas such as Manchester, Liverpool, Teeside and the West Midlands were automatically given money due to having working devolution arrangements.

Council leaders from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster all signed a deal back in 2015 with the then Chancellor George Osborne for devolved powers and £900 million in cash over 30 years.

But Doncaster and Barnsley announced they wanted to ditch the deal on offer and support a wider Yorkshire deal backed by 18 of the 20 councils.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced South Yorkshire along with Derby & Nottingham, Leicester City, the North East, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire are being considered for transport cash. 

It’s understood South Yorkshire could receive around £120 million. 

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has outlined a plan to improve transport connections to key economic sites across South Yorkshire if successful.

Mayor Jarvis said he wants to use the cash for  bus priority improvements, enabling active travel, providing transport hubs and introducing smart ticketing systems.

Other plans include new park and ride sites which is hoped to enable ‘quicker journey times, reduced congestion’.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement that ten cities including Sheffield have been shortlisted for major transport funding across England, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, executive director Richard Wright said: “I welcome the announcement but do need to point out that we would have been on the first list of regions where money was allocated if we had done our devolution deal earlier.

“We are now in a competitive bidding situation with other regions which is extremely frustrating.

"Let's hope we can bid for and use this money on local transport schemes which both protect what we have and add to them to drive more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport schemes across the region.

“The refurbishment and extension of Supertram must be a priority. It both relieves congestion and improves the environment. "

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “I welcome this announcement from the Government, which reflects the strength of our bid to the Transforming Cities Fund.

“It is critical that we improve the transport system in our region, to create better access to major employment sites, reduce congestion and better integrate different modes of transport.

"Our proposal to develop a Global Innovation Corridor which connects residents and businesses to our internationally-significant assets will help to achieve that, and grow our economy.

"I now look forward to working with the Department for Transport as we develop our detailed plans.”

The ten shortlisted city regions will each receive an initial £50,000 as well as support from government to co-develop cases for investment.

Once finalised, funding decisions will consider the relative strength of each bid and their ‘impact on improving connectivity, supporting employment and driving up productivity’.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Our great cities and their suburbs are home to millions of people and world-beating businesses.

“These improvements to vital infrastructure will help spread growth beyond London and empower local businesses to create more, better-paying jobs – opening up more opportunities to help people get on in life and be rewarded for their hard work.”