Barnsley and Doncaster to vote on devolution deal next month after councils back poll plan

Barnsley councillors.
Barnsley councillors.
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A public vote on whether Barnsley and Doncaster should support the One Yorkshire or Sheffield City Region devolution deals will take place next month after councillors unanimously backed the plan.

Plans to hold a community poll were announced by Barnsley and Doncaster councils earlier this month. Voters would be asked to choose between the government-backed Sheffield City Region deal or a proposed Yorkshire-wide deal.

The Yorkshire Post says: Why devolution to the North can’t be delayed any longer

At a full council meeting of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, every councillor voted for the poll to go ahead. Later in the day, Doncaster councillors also unanimously backed the plan.
When the move was announced, Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton, who backs the One Yorkshire proposals, said he wanted to give Barnsley residents an opportunity to have their say on "a generation-changing decision on devolution".

He told the meeting today: "Almost everyone has given a view [on devolution] except the people who matter most, that is the public. They are the people we are supposed to be doing this for.

"There are clearly differences of opinion right across the region but what is clear is that this is a very big decision for us. It is a difficult decision, a 30-year decision which will be difficult to reverse, if at all."

He added that, while the decision was not legally-binding, it would be respected by the council, adding: "There is little point asking the people what to do and then ignoring it if you don't get the answer you want."

The measure was backed by councillors of all parties. John Wilson, leader of Barnsley's Conservative group, said a wider Yorkshire deal "would give us more clout and access to greater funding".

Doncaster's Deputy Mayor, Glyn Jones, said: “Whichever devolution deal is chosen will have a huge impact on Doncaster’s future so we feel it is vitally important to get a complete view of the community in going forward.

“Now is the time for people to have their voice heard and help shape Doncaster’s future devolution path. This is a big question and we want to hear as many voices a possible."

According to council documents, holding the poll would cost each authority £120,000. Every voter will receive a voting pack in the first week of December, giving information about both options.

People can vote online or by post, with a closing date of December 20. The result will be announced on December 21.
South Yorkshire's ongoing devolution saga which began in 2015 when then-Chancellor George Osborne signed an agreement with Sheffield City Region leaders, which includes Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.
Under the deal a directly elected mayor, due to be elected in May 2018, will be given £900m over 30 years and handed power over transport budgets and strategic planning.
But, in August, the leaders of Doncaster and Barnsley signed up to a pan-Yorkshire proposal, initially backed by 17 of the 20 local authorities in Yorkshire.
Sheffield and Rotherham Councils have not given their support to the deal and the Department for Communities and Local Government says it is not prepared to consider any proposal that cuts across the Sheffield City Region deal.

Speaking outside Barnsley Town Hall today, Labour MP Dan Jarvis, who supports the One Yorkshire proposal, said the Sheffield City Region "doesn't have the clout, or the brand, to leverage influence" in the same way as Yorkshire as a whole.

He said: "There is opposition at the moment in Whitehall but governments do change their minds. The way we get them to change their mind is with the strength of the case that we make.

"That requires everybody who supports the One Yorkshire deal, from the business community to trade unions, from members of the public, from people across the Yorkshire region who believe in the case, to lobby their MP, to speak to their local councillor, and say 'it is my own view that we can do something across Yorkshire'.

"I believe that if we harness that collective effort, we can change the minds of government. Within Whitehall, within Government, there are some very senior people who believe in the case for One Yorkshire. If you look at what Business Secretary Greg Clark said recently, he said that the moment for top-down solutions from Whitehall is gone, so let's harness all of that collective energy and see if we can't make the case to government.

"The Government is in a place where, frankly, they can persuaded to change their mind, and that is what we must work to try and do in the next few weeks."

He added: "A strong show of support from the people of Barnsley and Doncaster is going to very helpful in making that argument, so that is what we have got to make sure happens.

"At a time of year when people's thoughts are turning to Christmas and other things, we have got to make them aware of the fact that there is a moment to take a decision which will profoundly affect our part of the world, and the part of the world around us, for the next generation or so.

"The challenge for me is to get people engaged, to have that debate and ultimately to win it."