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High Court rules Sheffield City Region consultation was unlawful

The High Court has ruled that the process for deciding how some of the new Sheffield City Region’s mayoral powers would apply to Chesterfield was unlawful.

The court upheld Derbyshire County Council’s application for judicial review of the process for reaching the decision.

The Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (SCRCA) and its mayor, due to be elected in May 2017, would have taken control of roads, public transport, skills, employment and investment projects in Chesterfield, which is currently part of Derbyshire County Council.

Despite the SCRCA insisting that the mayoral election would go ahead, Mr Justice Ouseley of the High Court ruled today that the consultation had been unlawful and unfair.

Justice Ouseley found that the consultation, which ran from 1 July to 12 August, had failed to ask local people a direct question about whether they believed Chesterfield should become part of the SCRCA. He added that “something had gone seriously and significantly wrong” in the consultation.

The ruling means that the SCRCA will have to hold another consultation, which could delay the mayoral election.

Cllr Anne Western, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: “The people of Chesterfield knew this consultation was unfair and misleading and this High Court judgment confirms that.”

The council’s own survey found that 92% of local people opposed allowing Chesterfield to become part of the SCRCA.

“This is a victory for fairness and common sense and for the thousands of local people who - despite not being able to answer the question they wanted to in the official consultation - spoke up and made their views known loudly and clearly,” Cllr Western added.

Cllr Alan Rhodes, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, has also written to senior ministers to warn that the SCRCA deal “makes no sense” because it involves absorbing Bassetlaw.

A spokesperson for SCRCA told PSE: “This judgement confirms that our extensive and wide-ranging consultation will not be quashed. The judgement raised the need to carry out further consultation to address the proposed governance changes in Chesterfield.

“We will now take some time to consider the judgement and our next steps. We will make further public statements once we have had the opportunity to do this.”

The High Court ruling is the latest setback for the government’s devolution agenda. It withdrew the North East devolution deal in September after local councils voted against the offer.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the department remained "100% committed" to the Sheffield devolution deal, but would consider the implications of the ruling carefully.

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