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South Yorkshire business leaders criticise devolution delay

Business leaders have sent a letter to councils in South Yorkshire expressing anger about delays in plans to devolve power to the region. Photo: ITV Yorkshire

Business leaders have sent a letter to councils in South Yorkshire expressing anger about delays in plans to devolve power to the region.

Local authorities in South Yorkshire and the North Midlands first agreed to a government deal to have an elected mayor for the Sheffield City Region in 2015.

However, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield have withdrawn from the deal and that plan has since been put on hold.

The letter, addressed to 'the Leaders of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Councils', says they "are very concerned about reported further delays in bringing to fruition the devolved powers deal for our region."

It argues that there is a risk of losing "significant funding" and "damaging" the region's reputation by delaying the devolution.

We know you share with us a strong determination to make this a great place to live for everyone; a great place to work; a great place to bring up a family; a great place for life-long learning and a great place to innovate and invest.

We believe delay in clarifying future intentions now is potentially very damaging to this ambition and risks us falling further behind other UK regions.

This is of real concern to us and hence we ask you to come together urgently to resolve any differences and show we can act collectively to grasp the South Yorkshire deal, which still remains on the table, while not closing off other options, which may become available in the future.

– South Yorkshire Businesses and Chamber of Commerce

Earlier this month, a separate Yorkshire Day agreement saw North Yorkshire and York work with councils in West Yorkshire, East Riding and Hull, Barnsley and Doncaster to sign up to a deal which could bring devolution to the whole region.

However, in the letter, business leaders say the idea of a "pan-Yorkshire deal" should not overtake a South Yorkshire plan.

We would suggest it is far less of a priority for our region at this time, than proceeding to develop our South Yorkshire economy, to position us more strongly as a confident economic force, both within Yorkshire and in comparison to other UK city regions.

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.

– South Yorkshire Businesses and Chamber of Commerce

Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Councils have yet to respond to the letter.