Sheffield City Region mayoral election '˜a stepping stone to Yorkshire devolution'

All three Labour hopefuls bidding to be the party's candidate for Sheffield City Region mayor have signalled that the transfer of powers and money from central government could be a stepping stone to a wider Yorkshire devolution deal.

The election of a Sheffield City Region mayor could be a stepping stone towards a wider Yorkshire devolution deal.

Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis, former Minister Richard Caborn and Sheffield city councillor Ben Curran are hoping to win the support of Labour members in South Yorkshire ahead of the election in May.

The mayoral election is part of the devolution deal agreed by civic leaders in Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham with ex-Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 for a host of new powers and £900m in funding over 30 years.

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But with Doncaster and Barnsley withdrawing from the deal in favour of a ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution proposal last year, as it stands whoever is elected in May will have virtually none of the promised powers.

Julie Dore and Sir Steve Houghton sign the Sheffield City Region devolution deal with then chancellor George Osborne.

Eighteen out of the 20 council leaders in Yorkshire are now backing a wider Yorkshire deal, with only Sheffield and Rotherham councils not supporting the transfer of powers from Whitehall to a single mayor representing the entire region.

In a statement issued to The Yorkshire Post, a Labour spokesman declined to explicitly back any particular model of devolution but said there was “consensus in the region for securing the best possible devolution deal for the people of Yorkshire and the Humber”.

He said: “Labour leaders, councillors and MPs in Yorkshire and the Humber are at the forefront of the drive for real and meaningful devolution in the region.

“While the Government is resistant to the One Yorkshire proposal, contradicting its own manifesto, there is consensus in the region for securing the best possible devolution deal for the people of Yorkshire and the Humber.”

Julie Dore and Sir Steve Houghton sign the Sheffield City Region devolution deal with then chancellor George Osborne.

Barnsley MP and former British Army Major Dan Jarvis, who announced his intention to become the first directly-elected mayor of South Yorkshire last month, said a wider devolution agreement would give Yorkshire the clout to develop its huge potential.

He said: “I am standing in this election because we need someone who as well as being Sheffield City Region mayor, will play a leading role in the ongoing process for a wider devolution deal for Yorkshire and the Humber.

“I believe this election of a mayor in South Yorkshire is not the end of our devolution story, it is the beginning.

“But this will only be the case if we elect someone who can both pull together the local authorities in South Yorkshire and is genuinely committed to developing that wider deal. This is the clear dividing line in this election.”

Former Sheffield Central MP and Sports Minister Richard Caborn said any proposal delivering more powers and funding should be supported, but that the Sheffield City Region deal “on the table” was his priority.

He said: “Of course, if local people want a wider devolution deal with the rest of Yorkshire, that incorporates real powers and resources, that should be supported.

“My track record as a Minister for the Regions - creating Regional Development Agencies, such as Yorkshire Forward - clearly demonstrates both my track record on regionalism and my support to devolve economic and political powers and funding to Yorkshire.

“I see the potential for a two-stage process, delivering the South Yorkshire deal now and using this as a building block to subsequently deliver a wider Yorkshire deal.”

Ben Curran, a Sheffield councillor and solicitor, said securing a deal was the top priority and that he had spoken to the four council leaders urging them to accept the Sheffield City Region agreement.

He said: “The South Yorkshire deal is the only deal on the table right now. We should accept the money and the powers as a stepping stone towards a wider devolution agreement. I recognise the referendum result in Barnsley and Doncaster.

“If elected as Mayor, I would be a proactive voice in the discussions on a wider Yorkshire deal. If we can reach a deal that is better for the people of South Yorkshire, I would encourage the four boroughs to accept it – even if that made the Mayor of South Yorkshire role redundant.”

“I don’t think we can wait for a wider Yorkshire deal to be agreed. We have the ability to secure further investment in South Yorkshire. We need to get on with that as a first step as soon as we can.”