Devolving powers is now more important than ever
By Nigel Brewster, LEP Vice Chairman
“As Westminster is about to bring back powers from Europe, so too it is about to give up powers to the Sheffield City Region.
In uncertain times business needs certainty more than ever. The SCR LEP will ensure that. We’ll keep investing in the city region’s infrastructure, we’ll make sure our investment in skills focuses on productivity and growth, and we’ll support major growth opportunities, including Doncaster Sheffield Airport, the region’s new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, and in securing the benefits of bringing a second high-speed rail line into the city region.
It is my view that devolving powers and resources from a distant Whitehall has become more important than ever after the referendum result – and there has been encouragement from the Government over the last month on its commitment to seeing this through.
This region was among the first off the starting blocks when we gained our initial Devolution deal in 2014. The second Deal, signed in October last year, reinforces that exciting horizons are opening up to us. They include control over our transport and infrastructure; skills and training designed for economic growth; and the ability to speed up regeneration schemes.
It’s an enviable deal negotiated by farsighted people.
We are looking beyond our traditional borders. We will propose to the Government in September that Chesterfield and Bassetlaw become formal members of our new Mayoral Combined Authority: this means they will have a full role in the decisions we make, reflecting the interconnected nature of our economies.
While getting on with the business of implementing our deal, we’ve wasted no time in continuing to deliver our ambitious investment programme. Money we put into an infrastructure pot is already being spent, and spent well, across the region. Just last month we allocated £8.75million to three projects which will unlock huge potential for jobs and economic growth – the Peak Resort leisure destination, the Olympic Legacy Park, and repairs to our important tram system.
Because we believe that everything we do in the city region should be accountable, we have asked every business and resident – that’s 52,000 businesses and almost 2 million people – to say how they think the new powers should be used.
It’s a massive exercise.
We have set up a dedicated website; we have launched a stream of newspaper and broadcast articles; we are using social media extensively; and we are holding a series of public meetings. An online survey has a series of questions asking for opinions on how people want to see the region run. Part of the deal means the region has a mayor, due to be elected next May, and we also need to know how the public believes that office should operate.
There are many other examples of the city region’s ‘we do what we say’ attitude. We have launched a skills ‘bank’ which helps employers select the training they need for their business, and helps toward paying for it. We have established a growth ‘hub’ to be a single point of contact for all business support across the region, and this is already operating with great success. And we have a team dedicated to working with international businesses who have helped to create 1,400 jobs and almost £100million of capital investment in the region in the last financial year alone.
We have a great success story and we want every person in this region to be part of it. We are confident about the future of the UK if we all work together to make it a success: we are certainly working in this region to keep success happening.
We keep our promises and get things done in an honest, straightforward way.
Lastly, we hope that the Government listens to the business community across Yorkshire and makes sure that similar devolution deals are put in place across the county. We will work as one to secure economic growth and take back the power and resources we need to secure the growth the Sheffield City Region is capable of.
We think the whole of Yorkshire should be able to do that.”
Please make your views known at www.shefffieldcityregiondevolution.org.uk.