Sheffield City Region mayoral hopefuls pitch for votes

NERVES OF STEEL: Whoever wins the mayoral election next month will be chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.
NERVES OF STEEL: Whoever wins the mayoral election next month will be chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.
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It has been 30 long months since then-Chancellor George Osborne appeared before the cameras at South Yorkshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and signed the historic deal handing powers and funding over to the county.

That moment, in October 2015, was hailed by Ministers as “the most fundamental shake-up of local government for a generation.” But it’s fair to say that things have not proceeded smoothly since for supporters of devolution in South Yorkshire.

The prospect of being South Yorkshire’s first directly elected mayor and chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has attracted seven candidates, all with different perspectives on how the role should be performed.

Meet the candidates in the Sheffield City region mayoral election on May 3

Civic leaders from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster signed the deal with Mr Osborne that came with £900m in new funding over 30 years and a host of powers transferred from Whitehall.

However, the latter two authorities soon started to favour a wider devolution deal taking in the whole of Yorkshire and in September last year pulled out of the process. The withdrawal by Doncaster and Barnsley from the consultation meant it could not go ahead as planned, and with no agreement reached since then Sheffield City Region’s metro-mayor will have none of the promised funding and virtually no new powers, other than in relation to bus franchising, when they take office.

Nevertheless, the prospect of being South Yorkshire’s first directly elected mayor and chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has attracted seven candidates, all with different perspectives on how the role should be performed.

Ahead of the vote on May 3, The Yorkshire Post asked all seven to submit details of their backgrounds, what they would bring to the job and what their priorities would be.

Labour and Co-operative Party candidate Dan Jarvis will be a strong favourite to win in a county where all the MPs and local councils are red.

But as a strong proponent of a ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution settlement, where a single mayor and combined authority would take on powers and money to benefit the region of 5.3m people, he would be taking on a role that he hopes will be replaced by a more powerful position in the near future.

One of the main tasks in any Sheffield City Region mayor’s in-tray would be to get an agreement on devolution over the line. So the result of the vote on May 3 is unlikely to be the end of the story for who ultimately wields power across our region.