To endorse the devolution agreement, note the work that has taken place since the ‘deal’ was proposed in October 2015, note and take into account the results of the City Region’s consultation exercise that has taken place between October 2015 and January 2016 and delegate authority to the Chief Executive (in consultation with the Leader and Commissioners as appropriate) to consent to an enabling Order.
Consideration was given to the report which detailed the economic devolution deal which would involve the establishment of a new, directly elected Sheffield City Region Mayor, who would act as Chair of a Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority, working alongside Local Authority Leaders in exercising a number of powers and functions devolved from central Government.
The Leader outlined the benefits of the previous devolution deals and the need for more jobs and businesses.
To meet that challenge more local control was required over the policies that impacted on the economy, infrastructure spending, adult skills, more control over public transport and better programmes to help those furthest from the labour market.
The devolution deal offered the opportunity to mix and match funding streams and allow for decisions about EU funding to be made more locally.
The Leader explained about how he did not want an Elected Mayor initially, but had negotiated a deal which was worth living with one.
The City Region would support developments in the local areas and going forward consideration would be given as to how to secure more investment in affordable housing, requiring closer working with City Region partners.
The Leader respected the concerns raised so far so highlighted:-
· The proposal was solely concerned with economic issues, matching the “economic footprint” of the Sheffield City Region – it was not about creating a “super-council”.
· The proposal did not remove any existing powers from Councils – it was specifically about devolving decision making down from the Government.
· The powers being exercised under the devolution proposals were not being lifted from Councils, the Mayor would not replace any decisions currently made by Councils.
· The proposed Mayor would have specific responsibility with regards to transport, but Council Leaders would continue to sit and make decisions with regards to other policy areas, as currently, in what was effectively a Combined Authority Cabinet – which the Mayor would chair. He or she would be one voice amongst ten.
· Budgets or strategies proposed by the Mayor could be vetoed by a vote of two thirds of Combined Authority Councils.
Councillor Watson offered his support to the proposals and whilst being cynical initially recognised the importance of working together.
Councillor Cowles referred to the mandatory Elected Mayor and whether this was another layer of bureaucracy, the sharing of services across the region and any other areas of activity and how this would happen if there was some unwillingness across partners.
Councillor C. Vines commented on the little information about the City Region being shared, the change of heart around the Elected Mayor and the benefits to Rotherham. He also referred to shared services and the devolution that had already taken place in Scotland and Wales
Councillor Currie supported this as a way forward for Rotherham and welcomed the local empowerment.
Councillor Hoddinott referred to the discussions that had taken place in the Chamber towards the end of 2015 and the probable imposition of an Elected Mayor. This was a good deal for Rotherham even with an Elected Mayor and the Council should not throw away the chance of giving South Yorkshire more control and power and take forward the opportunity of the devolution of powers from Whitehall to have a say in what was happening locally and come together as a northern powerhouse.
Councillor Reynolds asked about the administrative set up costs, how this would be managed and the cost to the taxpayers of Rotherham.
Councillor Jepson reluctantly supported the proposals, but was not altogether convinced the Mayor was the best option and sought assurances for Rotherham.
Councillor John Turner described his reservations around the proposal and spoke from experience.
Councillor Parker referred to the previous disagreement with an Elected Mayor, the reasons for the change of direction and the details of what the Enabling Order included, which was being voted on.
Councillor Steele supported the proposals and the work that had taken place. This deal would bring jobs and growth to the economy along with powers to the Elected Mayor.
The Leader in addressing the comments made by Elected Members confirmed to Councillor Reynolds that administration costs to Rotherham would be in the region of £35k per year and could involve up to sixty staff, but the benefits to the Rotherham taxpayers was much higher.
To answer Councillor Cowles the Leader explained that he had changed his view around an Elected Mayor, but there would be procedures in place moving forward. In terms of shared services there was to be further exploration as to whether there was any mileage to support this deal.
To answer the queries by Councillor Currie, the Leader confirmed the negotiations would continue, towards what was possibly an Independent Yorkshire, and welcomed more information for the school curriculum and giving local accountability to the education system.
The Leader referred to there being a Northern Powerhouse which could lead to improved infrastructure through this deal. Councillor Jepson’s concerns about planning and consideration was being given to the drawing up an advisory plan which all Councils would sign up to that would alleviate some concerns.
In response to concerns by Councillor C. Vines and the opposition to the Elected Mayor, once the details had been considered in depth the deal included a mandatory Elected Mayor.
Resolved:- (1) That the devolution agreement be endorsed as set out at Appendix A in order for Central Government to develop the necessary legislation to put it on a statutory footing during 2016/17.
(2) That the work that had taken place since the ‘deal’ was proposed in October 2015 – in particular those matters detailed in paragraphs 2.4; 2.5 and Appendix B be noted.
(3) That the results of the City Region’s consultation exercise that had taken place between October 2015 and January 2016 – including the summary of the consultation detailed in section 5 and Appendix C be noted.
(4) That authority be delegated to the Chief Executive (in consultation with the Leader and Commissioners as appropriate) to consent to an Enabling Order.
Mover: Councillor Read Seconder:- Councillor Watson