On 3rd May 2012 the people of Sheffield voted resoundingly against an elected mayor for our city. The final tally was 65 to 35 percent – a clear majority of the city rejected the idea of a single leader holding so much power.
The recent devolution deal for the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority announced in the local and national press on 2nd October has resurrected the idea of a mayor without any consultation with local people or even elected Councillors.
A single elected mayor would make local government much less accountable and involve local people in decision-making far less. The recent plans mean handing total control of transport and planning strategy to the mayor and taking these functions away from elected local councillors. There is no information on how local people will be able to hold him/her to account or whether there will be any form of consultation regarding mayoral decisions.
The Sheffield City Region covers an area larger than South Yorkshire. It stands to reason you can’t directly email or get on the phone to a regional mayor when you want to state your point of view.
Green councillors have proposed a motion for the November 4th meeting of Sheffield City Council objecting to having an elected mayor forced on the Sheffield City Region without a referendum.
A handful of local Council leaders from the nine, mostly Labour dominated, local authorities that make up the Sheffield City Region (SCR) have been involved in this backroom deal with George Osborne.
Sheffield Council has rightly been criticised for not listening to residents’ views on important issues like roadside trees and local libraries. So perhaps we should not be surprised they support a deal that will give even less weight to local people’s opinions in future.
The financial benefits are very small. The very most that will be handed over to the SCR if they sign this deal is £30m, of that only £12m is for revenue spending, shared across nine local authorities. Set against the £50 million Sheffield City Council will lose this year from Government cuts, this “extra” is tiny.
The effect of devolving powers to northern regions is a clever Tory strategy to divert blame for cuts in services and the resulting destitution and chaos that austerity creates. No significant extra revenue will be made available, so how will control over budgets be exercised if there is no money to spend? Our Council leaders are walking into a trap.
Douglas Johnson, Sheffield and Rotherham Green Party
Green councillors have proposed a motion for the November 4th meeting of Sheffield City Council objecting to the imposition of an elected mayor for the Sheffield City Region. The motion notes that Sheffield voters decisively rejected the idea of an elected mayor for the city in a 2012 referendum, and calls for any city region mayor to be subject to a further vote. Greens are also calling for Sheffield councillors of all parties to be given a free vote on the issue when the Sheffield City Region devolution deal comes before the Council for debate and approval.