Business leaders in South Yorkshire have welcomed steps towards a devolution deal but maintained they still remain fixed on the “ultimate prize” of a region-wide agreement to secure powers from Westminster.
A breakthrough in securing a devolution deal in South Yorkshire was announced on Wednesday, unlocking at least £900m for the area and opening the door for deals to be done elsewhere in region.
But the hope of eventually reaching a One Yorkshire dea has not been forgotten, with the Government committing to support for a board of all Yorkshire leaders to continue meeting and setting strategic aims.
Dan Fell, Chief Executive at Doncaster Chamber, said: “Securing a South Yorkshire devolution deal is a positive step for Doncaster and the region.
“Whilst the Chamber – led by member sentiment – has, and continues to advocate for, full Yorkshire devolution, Doncaster businesses have always been extremely pragmatic about how this is achieved and the need to take iterative steps in pursuit of the ultimate prize.”
Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones also reiterated she was still pursuing a Yorkshire-wide deal, despite signing up to the South Yorkshire pact.
The original agreement in South Yorkshire was signed in 2015 but Doncaster and Barnsley opted to pursue a Yorkshire-wide deal which hadn’t been legislated in Parliament.
Both Doncaster and Barnsley held community referendums to gauge support for a Yorkshire deal. Turnout was less than 25 per cent but the people voted overwhelmingly backing a Yorkshire deal.
Ms Jones said: “In 2017 Doncaster residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of a wider Yorkshire devolution deal and today’s announcement is a significant step towards this.
“Pursuing a Yorkshire-wide deal is still very much our intention.
“However we welcome the agreement from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to work with us to progress our ambition for a Yorkshire wide devolution deal, whilst still allowing the South Yorkshire devolution deal to progress, unlocking significant opportunities and investment for Doncaster and South Yorkshire. I look forward to further discussions and scoping out the next steps.”
Mr Fell added: “This compelling deal is, however, much more than just a stepping stone and could be a welcome fillip to an economy which, for the last couple of years, has been beset by uncertainty.
“The Chamber congratulate all who have shown determination and pragmatism to get this across the line at a crucial time for the economy.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I’m delighted that we are close to getting the Sheffield City Region Devolution Deal over the line and I welcome the commitment shown by local leaders over the last few days that has got us to this position.
“As Secretary of State, devolving power to people and places across this country is an absolute priority. I am determined to see the people of South Yorkshire benefit from all the powers and investment envisaged in the Deal as soon as possible.
“Handing back power to people of the North and levelling up the country is central to my mission, and we will continue to work tirelessly to make this vision a reality in the Sheffield City Region.
“This Government is committed to getting on and delivering for the public - unlocking this Deal is just another example of that.”