South Yorkshire devolution promise revealed as new deals announced

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SOUTH YORKSHIRE council leaders were promised no other area would get a better devolution deal, it has emerged.

In return for becoming the second area, after Greater Manchester, to sign a deal, South Yorkshire council leaders received a commitment that later agreements would not be on better financial terms.

They were also promised that if later agreements included powers not offered to South Yorkshire, negotiations could be re-opened.

The details are revealed in a letter sent by the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority to Chancellor George Osborne following the talks which led to a deal announced on the eve of the Conservative Party conference earlier this month.

It says the leaders’ agreement is based on matters discussed with Treasury Minister Lord O’Neill and Government officials.

These include “‘first mover advantage’ for the Sheffield City Region and that any subsequent devolution deals with other parts of the country will be less materially advantageous,” the letter says.

This is understood to refer to a commitment that no area will receive more money relative to their population than the £30m a year included in the Sheffield City Region deal.

Councils in the North-East and Tees Valley will today become the latest groups to agree devolution deals with the Chancellor.

In line with the Sheffield City Region agreement, both areas will have elected mayors from 2017 in return for a raft of new powers over their own affairs.

Mr Osborne said the latest agreements showed the “devolution revolution is gathering an unstoppable momentum”

He continued: “The old model of trying to run everything in our country from the centre of London is broken. It has led to an unbalanced economy and made people feel remote from the decisions that affect their lives. It has not been good for our democracy or our prosperity.”

The announcement of two more devolution deals will draw further attention to the ongoing wrangling over how West, North and East Yorkshire should approach English devolution.

West Yorkshire councils want a Leeds City Region deal covering their authorities and Harrogate, Selby, York and Craven however other authorities want a single devolution agreement - known as Greater Yorkshire - covering North, East and West Yorkshire.