Devo Sheffield announced: transport, skills, business support, housing, no mayor

Nick Clegg is in Sheffield today to confirm a city devolution deal which will shift power from Whitehall to the Sheffield City Region combined authority, giving the city region greater control over transport, skills, housing and business support. This historic deal for Sheffield will allow the city to introduce “oyster-style” travel cards, and local councils and businesses will have control over the majority of the skills budget for the area for the first time.

This comes a month after the Northern Futures Summit, which brought together local people and businesses to share their vision for strengthening the economy in the region. The deal does not impose any specific form of governance over the city, such as a metro mayor.

The deal builds on the success of the City Deal and Growth deal already agreed for the Sheffield City Region, which began the journey that sees the people of Sheffield put in charge of their own economic destiny.

Nick Clegg said:

It’s a historic moment for the great city of Sheffield, and I’m pleased to be bringing more power to the people of Sheffield today, after I’ve pushed for greater devolution to the North through my Northern Futures programme for so long.

Today’s deal will give council leaders clout to push forward local plans that strengthen the economy and the running of the city themselves, without waiting for Whitehall.

​Putting the people of Sheffield in control of our city’s destiny will ensure local plans are in line with what local people want. From transforming travel across the city, to improving access to skills training, the deal will mean changes in the city are shaped by those who live there.

Gone are the days of central government controlling all local decisions, and I’m proud to be at the forefront of these forward-thinking changes that see cities like Sheffield able to grow as they see fit.

Some details of the deal

Transport

Sheffield City region takes greater control and lead on improvement and delivery of transport schemes:

  • The opportunity for the city to roll-out “oyster-style” smart ticketing on all local bus services.
  • The deal secures the future of the Sheffield to Rotherham Tram Train service, boosting funding and pushing forward introduction of the service.
  • Making more decisions about preparation for HS2, improvements to roads and rail, giving council leaders potential to tackle troubled transport routes like the M1 Tinsley viaduct.
  • Sheffield City Region will lead discussions with Highways Agency and Network Rail, ensuring that investment decisions are in line with what local people need.

Skills and employment

The city will be responsible for the majority of the Adult Skills Budget, working with the Skills Funding Agency and the Department for work and pensions to build a new skills system. The city will play a central role in:

  • Skilling people up, particularly in science and maths, to create strong candidates for manufacturing and engineering jobs in the city.
  • Enabling businesses to take up and invest in more apprenticeships. It has seen 680 additional apprentices thanks to its City Deal scheme, and will now make sure even more businesses have the opportunity to benefit from an apprentice.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions will also consult with Sheffield City region about the possibility of joint commissioning for the next phase of the Work Programme beginning in 2017

Business support

Government will work more closely with Sheffield City Region on business support, locating national advisors alongside local staff and giving Sheffield City Region flexibility to give businesses the support they need.

From 2017 onwards, UKTI will become principle partner with Sheffield City Region’s Export Centre of Expertise and work closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership to encourage more businesses to export. Government and Sheffield City Region will work towards a solution that will allow the Yorkshire JEREMIE to continue on an interim basis. Sheffield City Region will move towards a more devolved model of business support, with enterprise spending coming directly into the City Region’s control.

Housing

The deal will make the most of public sector land in the city region, owned both by councils and Government. ecisions about which assets to sell, and how to regenerate some sites, will be taken together between local and national government to get the best deal for taxpayers and the local economy. Government will also work with Sheffield to help speed up house building, by ensuring viable developments can access government funding more easily.

The Sheffield City Region comprises the South Yorkshire council areas of Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield, alongside the East Midlands authorities of Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales and North East Derbyshire.

See also Devo Manc, and Devo Leeds is surely imminent.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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29 Comments

  • What is ‘Sheffield City Region?’? Is it an organisation, some sort of quango, a government department? And how is it to be held accountable? Where’s the role for residents to steer changes and set the agenda?

  • George Carpenter 12th Dec '14 - 12:37pm

    Isn’t this at odds with the democratic opinion of the Yorkshire Liberal Democrats?
    Is Nick Clegg a Liberal Democrat?
    I was under the impression that “city regions” were a Labour plan and nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats.

  • Sounds like a glorified talking shop.

  • David Evans 12th Dec '14 - 1:35pm

    The problem is Joe, this handout to City Regions will be instead of a comprehensive devolution agenda, but is simply yet another last minute sticking plaster to hide the fact that noting of substance has been achieved by yet another government.

  • Completely agree with David Evans here. I know of virtually nobody in the party (who doesn’t sit on a city region) who is supportive of more power for them. There has been virtually no discussion in the party of these city deals. Where there has been (Yorkshire) they have been rejected in favour of a regional parliament.

    Sorry Joe, but for me this is a backward step not a forward one

  • Yorkshire Guidon 12th Dec '14 - 1:55pm

    Sheffield Liberal Democrats should hold their heads in shame. What a grubby illiberal and undemocratic deal.

  • Good luck with this Joe, don’t get disheartened by the negatives on this thread. If the nine authorities that have come together to make the Sheffield City Region want this then that’s what really matters.

    It should also be ‘take what you can get, when you can get it’ – if people wait forever for the perfect transfer of powers to the regions it will never happen (see the last 30 years for proof of that). You can always come back for more or alter the structure later.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 12th Dec '14 - 3:27pm

    No Gareth – what really matters is what the people want. There has been no public consultation (apparently the Leader of Sheffield said there was no time!), there will be no referendum or indeed no other device to bring the people along in decision making. Did Sheefield learn nothing from the Scottish referendum?

  • Richard Church 12th Dec '14 - 4:39pm

    City regions are a far better model for devolution than the traditional regions of England. Sheffield city region is partly in Yorkshire and partly in the East Midlands. It makes sense for transport, planning, economic development and other purposes. it will though need to improve its democratic accountability, and perhaps that will involve a return to something not unlike the old Metropolitan authorities, hopefully without an elected Mayor, elected by PR.

    We are still waiting fora model for devolution in the rest of England, but whatever it is, I don’t think it will be regional parliaments, and it won’t be more than a very partial answer to the West Lothian Question. The sooner we recognise the need for an English Parliament the better.

  • How does this differ from the Greater Manchester devo deal – which it was claimed parts of were contingent on having an elected Mayor.

  • Hywel
    Not much difference.
    Both have Oysters, but the chips are better in Manchester.
    Neither have much democracy, but the football is better in Manchester.

    The other big difference is that Stockport Liberal Democrats do not have to pretend to like the Sheffield deal.

  • paul barker 12th Dec '14 - 5:17pm

    Some of the comments on this thread seem to be written on the basis that if Nick Clegg is for something, it must be a bad idea. I prefer thinking myself.
    These changes are small but useful, if they can be made to work then Voters will see that & ask for more. More Voters may also vote in Local elections if they see Local Authorities making a real difference. One of the Democratic Deficits in Local Government is that so few people actually Vote, these changes could help.

  • Joe Otten, have you changed your mind ? You once wrote —

    “…… I am not entirely satisfied with having to say ‘localism is the answer’ on the doorstep. 
    Why? For two reasons. 
    Firstly, because there is no more confidence in the ability of local government than there is of any other level, there is a vicious cycle of insignificance and second-rateness about local politics, and rarely (at least round here) much local press scrutiny of local issues. 
    Perversely it may seem easier to hold national politicians to account because at least they appear on Newsnight or the Today programme.”

    In particular, your put down of the ability of local politicians — “.. there is no more confidence in the ability of local government than there is of any other level, there is a vicious cycle of insignificance and second-rateness about local politics”

    Clegg’s rhetoric includes —
    “..Today’s deal will give council leaders clout to push forward local plans that strengthen the economy and the running of the city themselves, without waiting for Whitehall.”

    Have you changed your opinion of local Labour Party council leaders up in the Sheffield combined authority? Are they no longer second-rate?
    Or are you now expecting them to be regulars on Newsnight and The Today Programme ?

  • “The deal will make the most of public sector land in the city region, owned both by councils and Government. ecisions about which assets to sell, and how to regenerate some sites, will be taken together between local and national government to get the best deal for taxpayers and the local economy. Government will also work with Sheffield to help speed up house building, by ensuring viable developments can access government funding more easily.”

    And this wasn’t possible under existing arrangements between local and national government?

  • Hywel, it looks like Manchester gets more control over the buses than Sheffield does, but more details will be needed to be entirely certain.

  • Alisdair McGregor 12th Dec '14 - 6:36pm

    I regard the devolution to city regions as a minor and useful devolution of powers, which will eventually lead to those powers being exercised by either a directly & proportionally elected Yorkshire Parliament or the local authority (as appropriate, and with a bias towards power being devolved as far as possible) once we have abolished the combined authorities, quangos and other unaccountable structures that hamper & divide Yorkshire at present.

    @Joe Otten “Accountability is through elections to those 9 councils.”

    Which are not proportionally elected or assigned seats on the combined authority in proportion to votes, so THAT’S a non-starter in terms of representation.

    CAs are also obscurist ways of concealing the exercise of power, as you well know. That’s WHY we voted for them to be abolished.

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Dec '14 - 7:45pm

    “Some of the comments on this thread seem to be written on the basis that if Nick Clegg is for something, it must be a bad idea.”

    And?

    Liberal Democrats have a distinctive philosophy and policy with respect to devolution and regionalism.

    Once again Clegg goes for managerialism over Liberalism and once again Nick Clegg plays right into the hands of the opponents of Liberalism and representative/consultative Democracy. Labour get their city-region enclaves and the Tories get the vast majority of non-city England. Just another illiberal carve up and power grab.

    This country and its people and its institutions are in desperate need of a genuine party of Liberal Democracy.

  • Iain Brodie Browne 12th Dec '14 - 9:56pm

    Devo Minimus

  • @Joe Otten:

    “The Sheffield City Region authority is a combined authority on which all 9 local authorities are represented.

    Accountability is through elections to those 9 councils.”

    In other words, there is no accountability at all. Just like the (sic) Liverpool City Region.

    The Labour group decides everything in a pre-meeting and whizzes through millions of pounds of expenditure in a formal meeting lasting a few minutes. There is no opposition presence or right to speak. The membership of the City Region Cabinet is ‘Leaders only’ with no substitution. This means that there is very little chance for any accountability even to other Labour councillors. So-called ‘scrutiny’ is long after the event and highly-limited.

    The only good news is that this situation was achieved without the Osborne-Pickles imposition of an ‘Elected Regional Mayor’ against the will of the people. Which begs the question as to why such an animal was forced upon the Greater Manchester ‘City Region’.

  • Here we go again Westimster coming up with partial deals and no debate anywhere, guess Nick thinks this will be good for his electoral prospects.

    Sorry this kind of deal is what really turns me off politics, is it a pay off for getting votes for say English votes for England

  • David wilkinson 14th Dec '14 - 9:19am

    Nice to see that Cleggie sold Greater Manchester down the river on the issue of an elected mayor,must different rules for Yorkshire
    When the Greater Manchester Combined Authority was set up it was on the basis there will be no need for an elected mayor, that was overturned quickly in the rush to get snouts in the trough

  • David wilkinson 14th Dec ’14 – 9:19am

    Snouts and troughs are the inevitable consequence of big money decisions being hidden from directly elected councillors.
    The chickens are coming home to roost in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Boris Johnson’s exotic Greater London fiefdom.
    What an odd time to impose such an unaccountable system on Manchester.
    The system is no better for Sheffield and it is highly likely that the big city mayor will be imposed there as well as part of stage two, that nobody is talking about at the moment.
    Thanks to the wonders of the Internet I was able to watch the Stockport Council debate on the Manchester combined authority deal and it’s newly imposed Mayor. It was difficult to hear a single argument in favour of such a mayor from Liberal Democrats, Labour or even Tories. But Stockport have signed up to it because they fondly assume their collective snout will poke out an Oyster or two from the trough which they will expect the locals to thank them for. Selling democratic accountability for a new transport arrangement and the promise of some housing starts seems a poor deal to me,

  • Steve Coltman 14th Dec '14 - 12:07pm

    This just goes to show how dangerous it is that the UK lacks a constitution (Sorry – an ‘unwritten constitution’ is as real as the emperor’s new clothes). In a proper democracy it would be impossible to engineer a constitutional change like this without even telling the electorate let alone debating the point and asking them. For that matter the members of this party have not been asked if they agree with this policy. When did we stop being a democratic party?

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