Mayor Dan Jarvis calls for ‘devolution revolution’ on landmark day

THE elected mayor of Sheffield City Region today calls for a ‘devolution revolution’ to finally break Westminster’s policy grip on regions like Yorkshire.

Dan Jarvis is mayor of Sheffield City Region.
Dan Jarvis is mayor of Sheffield City Region.

Dan Jarvis makes the call on a landmark day that sees an order laid before Parliament which will formally pave the way for a 30-year devolution deal for South Yorkshire.

The area will also have preferential access to countless other Government funding streams, like a £5bn transport pot, in which are only open to mayoral combined authorities such as Sheffield City Region, Greater Manchester and West Midlands. Today’s development comes after a historic agreement was struck between the area’s four council leaders and Mr Jarvis in conjunction with Ministers after years of deadlock.

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But Mr Jarvis – a leading proponent of One Yorkshire devolution – says co-operation across the whole county is “going to be even more important than ever before” and says that there’s a clause in the three-decade deal which enables it to end early “if there’s a will to do so”.

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis with Paralympian champion Dame Sarah Storey, South Yorkshire's Active Travel Commissioner.

And, as council leaders and metro mayors await Boris Johnson’s much-vaunted ‘Project Speech’ tomorrow in which the PM will set out plans to bring forward infrastructure projects, Mr Jarvis today calls on Ministers to do more to empower regions.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post, Mr Jarvis says: “This landmark agreement is a great step forward, but it is not the end of the journey.

“What we have across England is still too often delegation, not devolution, with regions dependent on handouts that are often tied to projects and policies aligned with Westminster’s priorities, not ours.

“Power and funding are not rights, but gifts that can be given or taken away. We need to devolve more powers and resources outwards from Whitehall. Devolution does not stop at city region level.”

The Sheffield City Region devolution deal is due to be laid before Parliament today.

He also calls for the wider availability of skilled apprenticeships – a stance backed by Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born former Education Secretary – and expansion of the “world class Advance Manufacturing Research Centre”.

Warning that “the alternative is more bumping along the bottom” and “more wasted potential” if councils across Yorkshire do not pull together, today’s breakthrough precedes West Yorkshire’s first ever metro mayor election in May next year.

The wide-ranging SCR settlement also secures devolved transport powers and funding; full responsibility of the Adult Education Budget and new powers to deliver economic growth.

It has been welcomed by Simon Clarke, the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, who said that the agreement unlocks “real benefits” for South Yorkshire.

He added: “This Government is committed to handing power to the local leaders across Yorkshire, and this is a significant first step in our ambition to deliver devolution across the region.”

Political and business leaders also backed the Sheffield City Region deal. Matt Jackson, president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce said: “The final agreement comes just as we grapple with the immediate and lasting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have the opportunity to build stronger and fairer economy that works for businesses across our region. Let’s get to work.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “We know that regions like South Yorkshire are particularly vulnerable to economic crises and that we need strong, experienced leadership to help steer and co-ordinate our path to recovery.”

And Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber, added: “Securing the devolution deal is a seismic leap forwards for South Yorkshire. The deal acts as a statement of intent that our region is ambitious and business friendly.”

Meanwhile Mr Jarvis is a leading member of the coalition of mayors and council leaders which is urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to back a ‘New Deal for Green Skills and Growth’ in his forthcoming stimulus package to help Britain meet climate change targets.

The UK100 Resilient Recovery Task Force is headed by Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake who said that this represents a “once in a generation opportunity” for a green economic recovery so the UK can meet its Net Zero target by 2050.

Separately the Northern Powerhouse Partnership makes its own submission to the Government today, including a call to “start building HS2 from the North, from Leeds onto Leicester; from Manchester and Liverpool towards Crewe; and a new line across the Pennines”.

It also wants university graduates to become ‘catch up tutors’ to the region’s disadvantaged children. “Levelling up in recovery needs all of us to work together and benefit from the proceeds of our success together,” it says. “Co-operation has to be the legacy of the challenges we have all been through.”

Dan Jarvis on his dual role

DAN Jarvis says he will decide before Sheffield City Region’s next mayoral election in 2022 whether to remain as Barnsley Central MP as well.

He said the dual role, which he took up in 2018, did afford him the access to Ministers and officials which was needed to agree the devolution deal.

But he added; “I’ve always maintained that doing both is not a long-term solution and, frankly, it requires a herculean effort every single day.”

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