My View, Ros Jones, Time to talk about regional devolution

Snap of the FARRS road in developement from the air. Picture courtesy of Keyhole Visuals
Snap of the FARRS road in developement from the air. Picture courtesy of Keyhole Visuals

It’s time to talk about regional devolution.

By that, I mean it is coming in one form or another, and quickly, so we need to have a conversation about it. A proper one, with the public and businesses involved.

Let me say from the outset that I am in favour of the devolution of more economic powers from central government to the regions.

Across the Sheffield City Region, we want to build at least 70,000 new homes, support the creation of 6,000 new businesses and, vitally, see 70,000 new jobs created including 30,000 which are highly skilled.

People locally know what needs to be done and they are often in the best place to make the right decisions to achieve these goals. What we would like is a single pot of money, without strings attached, to allow us to achieve our targets.

It isn’t right that Whitehall has had so much control for so long about spending on key projects, particularly in the north of England.

There are some things I am not in favour of though.

I am not really in favour of creating another layer of expensive bureaucracy. I think we could manage additional economic powers within existing structures, as we have demonstrated with developments such as FARRRS, the new airport link road.

However, the Government has made it explicit that in order to get any extra powers, we must accept the imposition of a regional Mayor, in addition to the existing council structures.

I do not believe this is necessary, but it is clearly a deal-breaker for the Government.

I should also point out at this stage that I have no desire or intention to stand for the position of regional Mayor. I am here for Doncaster and that is my priority.

I am also not in favour of any powers being taken away from local areas.

This must be devolution of powers down from government, not an opportunity for regional politicians to suck up powers from local areas. I don’t want decisions about Doncaster that are currently made by people in Doncaster being taken away from us.

I also do not want to see the Government simply delegating decisions about spending cuts to the regions. That would have the effect of deflecting blame away from national government and on to local politicians without delivering real change.

Instead, what is required is the devolution of real powers.

There is of course another important question. If we are to have a regional Mayor, is it to be a Mayor for South Yorkshire, a Mayor for the Sheffield City Region or a Mayor for Yorkshire?

To decide that, I believe we all need to have a clear understanding of what would come with each of those models, and what would be the pros and cons of each.

* Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster