Open Letter from Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council and Ros Jones CBE, Elected Mayor of Doncaster Council
We are writing to provide clarification regarding the current position in relation to the next stage of devolution – how we get local control of more powers and funding to drive our economy and public services.
In the last few days there has been much reporting of the current situation, some of which is inaccurate and has misrepresented our position as elected representatives on this matter – so we want to set matters straight.
Let’s start by be being clear about the situation we are in.
There is a pause in the process that has been caused by a legal judgement on the need to properly consult with citizens about the Sheffield City Region devolution and establishment of a Mayor.
Firstly, we should not take this consultation lightly, or treat it as a ‘box – ticking exercise’, as some reports have suggested in these last days. These decisions will affect current and future generations of local people – so let’s hear the voice of the people and get it right.
Secondly, this pause gives us an opportunity to explore the art of the possible in how devolution of powers and funding can drive the local economy, and crucially, to make sure that this growth is inclusive, felt by all of the people and all of the places.
The proposal for a Yorkshire level of devolution is not being proposed as an alternative to the Sheffield or Leeds deals. It proposes continuation of City Region level devolution but enables us to look at whether more may be available to us through a Yorkshire approach as well as the City Region level. So it’s not an ‘either – or’ choice, but a way of bringing them together to achieve better connectivity across our great Cities, Towns and communities.
In our view it would be a real missed opportunity not to use this time we have to explore the potential benefits and downsides of this proposal with some fact finding, and that is all we are saying at this stage. That is not ‘playing politics’, or a parochial view, it is responsible, considered political leadership.
So we are not ‘walking away’ from anything – just using available time to explore opportunities that could help residents and businesses. We need to give ourselves every chance of achieving the economic and social progress we are all here to deliver, and which, uniquely, we as politicians are accountable to the people for. As a final point, we both know from the excellent relationships we have with business communities in Barnsley and Doncaster that we achieve most when we are united – businesses, politicians, public services, residents and the media pulling together, working things out, getting things done. So our commitment is to approach this important fact finding work in that way – let’s hope we can all sign up to that at least.