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26.10.15

Nowhere will get a better devolution deal than Sheffield City Region, letter says

Future devolution deals must be less “materially advantageous” than the agreement made for the Sheffield City Region earlier this month, city leaders have revealed in a letter to chancellor George Osborne.

In the letter set to be presented at the city-region’s combined authority meeting today (26 October), council leaders detailed that the agreed deal is based on seven key points, one of which said: “That this deal, because of its timing, secures ‘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.”

This is understood to mean that no other area will receive more than the £30m yearly share of Whitehall’s cash pot included in the region’s devolution terms.

Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, chair of the combined authority responsible for penning the letter, also added that if proposals originally put forward by Sheffield but rejected by Whitehall were then granted to other areas, they would automatically be explored with the city region.

He also revealed that any future responsibilities devolved to the mayor will be undertaken in consultation with the combined authority.

The letter, co-authored by the city region’s LEP chair, James Newman, was sent nearly three weeks ago, just four days after the £900m devolution deal was signed on 2 October – marking the first of the 38 national bids submitted ahead of the Spending Review.

But this is the exact same funding granted to the North East Combined Authority last week under another deal, also to be devolved in £30m slices each year – although that and the £450m Tees Valley deals will be subject to assessments every five years.

All deals also give local authorities greater powers over business programmes, employment and transport funding.

In the letter, Houghton also welcomed Osborne’s decision to devolve business rates and precept powers for mayoral combined authorities, adding: “Your visit to Rotherham to sign and announce this deal was of landmark significance. This heralds an important step in the devolution of powers to the Sheffield City Region, which will be vital in delivering on the ambitions of the Northern Powerhouse.”

PSE contacted the Treasury for comment but has not yet received a response.

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