Veto promise puts South Yorkshire devolution deal back on track

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton, Chancellor George Osborne and Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore at the signing of the deal

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton, Chancellor George Osborne and Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore at the signing of the deal

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A MAJOR stumbling block to the South Yorkshire devolution deal has been removed with the Government telling the area’s council leaders they can decide the new mayor’s powers.

The promise paves the way for South Yorkshire councils to ratify the draft deal they signed with Chancellor George Osborne last year which will see the election of a new ‘metro-mayor’ in May 2017.

Under the agreement the new mayor will chair the existing combined authority made up of the area’s council leaders.

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore had voiced concern that the wording of the draft deal would give the new mayor an effective veto over the collective will of council leaders and threatened to scrap the agreement unless it was changed.

Documents presented to Barnsley councillors ahead of a meeting next week reveal the veto concern has been raised with ministers and civil servants who have “expressly confirmed” that will not be the case.

The Government has also gone further and told local officials that if there are any issues these can be dealt with by changing the combined authority’s constitution which will be decided locally.

Concerns were also raised that although the draft deal covered the “Sheffield City Region”, which includes parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire the mayor would only be elected by voters in South Yorkshire.

Changes to legislation going through parliament have made it easier for those districts to become full members of the Sheffield City Region which has addressed some of those concerns.

South Yorkshire councils will be asked to ratify the deal in the weeks ahead.

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