South Yorkshire’s stalemate over devolution could end up saving residents a hike in their council tax bills, Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton has said.
Although the Sheffield City Region, which includes South Yorkshire’s four local authorities, has elected Mayor Dan Jarvis in place, he cannot access much of the £30m available to the region because of a dispute between the four authorities.
Sheffield and Rotherham want the full devolution deal previously agreed to be implemented, but Barnsley and Doncaster want the group to be amalgamated into a ‘One Yorkshire’ region, which would encompass a much wider area.
Public polls in Barnsley and Doncaster have confirmed widespread public support for the bigger option, but the Government is reluctant to allow that because the alternative, smaller, option was agreed before One Yorkshire was proposed.
Sir Steve was questioned at a full meeting of Barnsley Council by Lib Dem member Hannah Kitching about how the council could justify failing to access the cash which could be available to Mr Jarvis, who is also the Barnsley Central MP.
He said northern councils had been worst affected by austerity cuts and that it needed “Yorkshire to act as one voice to stand up to what is happening.”
He went on to tell the meeting: “In any event, I expect our residents will be pleased we have not signed up because we have seen mayors adding a precept (to council tax bills).
“If anything, we have protected our residents from additional costs. I think it is very wise we have taken a step back to see where all this goes,” he said.
In Liverpool households are facing an additional £16 charge on top of their council tax, to pay the salary of their mayor and for some of the public transport work he is moving forwards.