Shortly after Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis was elected as Mayor of Sheffield City Region last May on a manifesto promising to implement the stalled £900m devolution agreement for South Yorkshire while pushing for a wider regional agreement, he described the fight for devolution as a ‘process, not an event’.
That has certainly been borne out over the past 10 months in the struggle to break the impasse between Labour councils in South Yorkshire over the right way forward leading to strained relationships and occasional outspoken criticisms – but there now appears to finally be a way forward that satisfies all parties and most importantly, delivers transformational investment in the way that is already occurring in places such as Manchester and the West Midlands.
The Sheffield City Region deal was originally signed in 2015 but was left in limbo in 2017 after Doncaster and Barnsley councils – supported by community polls voted in by over 75,000 people – opted to pursue the ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution ambition that has widespread regional support.
Now a way forward has been agreed at a local level which would see the Sheffield City Region deal implemented on the understanding that each council could move to other devolution arrangements if they wish to from 2022. Mr Jarvis and the leaders of Doncaster and Barnsley councils Ros Jones and Sir Steve Houghton say the agreement is “entirely consistent” with their One Yorkshire ambitions and provides a timetable to allow the “perfectly achievable” plan to be brought to fruition in three years’ time.
The Government, which last month rejected the One Yorkshire plan, must surely now accede to the consensus that has been reached in South Yorkshire and offers a feasible way forward. The process of devolution in Yorkshire is, at long last, on the right path.