Sheffield City Region in crisis as devolution plans ‘extinguished’

Sheffield City Region is in crisis as another local authority has pulled out of the deal to devolve powers to South Yorkshire, with a district council leader saying devolution plans have now been “extinguished”.

Bassetlaw District Council backed out of becoming full members over plans to force the area to accept “London style planning powers,” meaning that the mayor can impose planning decisions and housing targets across the region.  

Simon Greaves, leader of Bassetlaw District Council, said: “We are not London, and one of our key democratic functions in Bassetlaw is that local councillors are accountable to their communities for the planning decisions they make.

“This would not happen if an elected mayor was in position with a planning mandate in Bassetlaw and we won’t entertain it.”

Highlighting the current instability in central government, Greaves said: “If policies like devolution were on the back burner before, they’ll be pretty much extinguished now.”

Bassetlaw’s withdrawal comes a day after Chesterfield pulled out of the Sheffield City Region deal.

Greaves claimed that devolution was an “opportunity missed” and that the City Region Deal is no longer in the best interests of Bassetlaw.

“I have asked the Chief Executive to prepare a report for Cabinet that will enable the Council to formally withdraw its application for full constituent membership of the Sheffield City Region,” he said.

The council also indicated that Bassetlaw would be at a disadvantage, as the proposed voting structure of the combined authority would leave the district with less power.

Sheffield City Region initially planned for key commuter towns to be included in the devolution deal, which is why it extends beyond South Yorkshire. Critics, however, have dismissed this as a power grab.

The decision yesterday by Chesterfield Borough Council, which represents another key commuter area, to sensationally backed out of the devolved area was because of Derbyshire County Council’s plans to hold a referendum.

Derbyshire County Council has been opposed to the prospect of losing a key town to Sheffield since the plans were first introduced.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership said he was disappointed with Chesterfield dropping out of the bid.

“The ability for our locally elected leaders to work across traditional administrative and county boundaries is critical on big issues such as public transport, skills investment and infrastructure. There is no doubt that this decision makes it a little harder to do this,” he said.

Sheffield City Region would have brought extra powers to the region that are currently controlled by central government and an extra £900 million of funding over the next 30 years.