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Do devolution deal to access post Brexit cash: Minister

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry at Sheffield University's Factory 2050 for the opening of three new research centres.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry at Sheffield University's Factory 2050 for the opening of three new research centres.

Sheffield City Region could miss out on more Government funding post Brexit if it fails to complete its devolution deal, a minister has warned.  

Jake Berry MP said mayoral combined authorities were the ‘natural investment partner’ to work with government as it distributed money through its new Shared Prosperity Fund.

It is being billed as the successor programme to European cash and aims to guarantee funding will not fall off a “cliff edge” after the UK leaves the European Union in March next year.

Mr Berry was speaking on a visit to Sheffield to open three University of Sheffield research centres that cost £47m and were supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

He said: “Areas with devolution deals will be in pole position for the continuance of money to support projects like this.

“It is crucial that the SCR deal is concluded - mayoral combined authorities and LEPs are the natural investment partner to work with government under the Shared Prosperity Fund.”

His comments came as Sheffield City Region misses out millions - including £12m, so far, as part of £900m agreed for the region and a guaranteed share of £800m from the Transforming Cities Fund. Devolution also gives mayors the freedom to borrow huge sums for infrastructure projects.

The Sheffield City Region deal is on ice after Barnsley and Doncaster last year pulled out to pursue a One Yorkshire devolution ambition.

Mr Berry said Sheffield City Region’s unspent funding was not at risk of being clawed back.

“We remain committed to the life of the deal. We are certainly not at the moment in the business of setting a deadline.

“I find it surprising Labour-run local authorities are complaining about pressure on budgets when there is an open offer of £30m-a-year for 30 years.”

Last week Doncaster Council leader Jo Miller said 66 per cent of the authority’s total funding will have been lost in the ten years from 2010 to 2020 - some £267m.

Barnsley and Doncaster have said they will finalise the SCR deal if they have a guarantee they can leave to join ‘One Yorkshire’ if the plan to unite the county under one mayor is successful.

Mr Berry said: “One Yorkshire proposals received yesterday show how complicated it is. It has taken them months to agree governance issues. It will take time for government to look at it.

“Do not let some future deal stand in the way of getting the money and investing in businesses. Discussions about One Yorkshire are not in the way of doing the South Yorkshire deal.”

He added: “As Northern Powerhouse minister I have a real desire to see the deal concluded.

“This advanced manufacturing institution is here because of a partnership between government and local authority who put European money into a revival of Sheffield City Region.”

Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said the South Yorkshire deal should go ahead first and there was no “getting out of it.”

“I think Barnsley and Doncaster agree they want to see the SCR deal up and running and then be allowed to leave if they want to.”

But government should be clear if One Yorkshire stood no chance.

“Having been at the Conservative party conference and seen how the elected mayors seemed to be getting to the front of the queue and agreeing deals, it’s essential we move ahead with pace. We’ve submitted detailed proposals, now we are asking for a conversation.

It’s in our interests to get it up and running.

“Let’s have clarity on whether One Yorkshire is possible. If we are told categorically by government there’s no deal then I would be disappointed but it would give clarity.”