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South Yorkshire business leaders voice concern over county devo deal

Business leaders across South Yorkshire have today penned a letter to four local authorities urging them to reconsider plans to push for a pan-Yorkshire devolution deal.

At the start of the month, 17 councils in Yorkshire caused a stir when they declared their ambition to unite behind a renewed devolution deal for the whole county, rather than the current deal for Sheffield City Region which would only involve authorities in South Yorkshire which has been delayed until September.

And a few weeks ago, the new chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) Bradford Council leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe also said she was committed to delivering a “meaningful” devolution deal for Yorkshire.

But now, the leaders of more than 150 prominent businesses in South Yorkshire have signed the letter calling for the current area’s deal to be strengthened before any deal for the rest of the region is pursued.

Some of the signatories of the letter include Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP, as well as Sir Keith Burnett and Professor Chris Husbands, vice chancellors of the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

The letter has been sent to Cllr Chris Read from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Cllr Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones and Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Metropolitan Council.

It voices concern that if a South Yorkshire devolution deal is not delivered soon, its reputation both nationally and internationally will suffer as the region will lose out on vital funding, investment and skills.

“Many business leaders across South Yorkshire, are very concerned about reported further delays in bringing to fruition the devolved powers deal for our region,” the letter stated.  “The possible loss to the region of significant funding is clearly of real concern.

“While the recent withdrawal of Bassetlaw and Chesterfield from the subsequently broadened Sheffield city region devolution deal is disappointing, this is far less significant than the recent public indication that not all of the four south Yorkshire local authority leaders remain certain regarding their future commitment to the deal for our region.

“Even if [a pan-Yorkshire deal] was to become available in due course, we would suggest it is far less of a priority for our region at this time than proceeding to develop our south Yorkshire economy.

It also goes on to explain that now South Yorkshire now had the possibility to be the paramount region of the country with regard to advanced manufacturing, health provision and research, digital innovation and other sectors.

“We should continue to pursue this actively and thereby significantly enhance the job opportunities and life prospects for our citizens,” it continued.

“A Yorkshire deal may emerge as a possibility in the years ahead, but surely we will be better placed to be a strong component of that, should it arise, if we push ahead to really strengthen South Yorkshire first.”

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