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Powers devolved to Sheffield

Words: Laura Edgar
Sheffield Town Hall

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has agreed a devolution deal for Sheffield.

Building on the city’s City Deal and Growth Deal, the Sheffield City Region combined authority will receive a number of powers from Whitehall, increasing their control over transport, business support and housing, ensuring local people get what they need.

Confirmed a month after the Northern Futures Summit, held to outline plans to improve the economy in the North, the deal will allow Sheffield to introduce travel cards similar to Oyster cards.

Unlike the deal secured in Manchester, Sheffield will not have a metro mayor.

Clegg said: “The 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.”

As well as Oyster-style ticketing across local bus services, the deal has secured the future of tram services from Sheffield to Rotherham and the ability to make decisions regarding HS2, road and rail improvements, including the M1 Tinsley viaduct.

The devolved powers also include measures to make the most of council and government owned public sector land while the government will work with the city to speed up the delivery of housing.

While putting devolution on the table for Sheffield has been welcomed by the Centre for Cities, “it is a long way from the kind of structural devolution we had been hoping to see.”

Speaking to The Planner, Paul Swinney, Centre for Cities senior economist, said: “Rather than affording Sheffield substantive powers over the core drivers of economic growth at a city-region level, the deal appears limited to funding for a number of individual projects.

“Transport is a great example of this; rather than focusing on funding specific infrastructure and ticketing projects, truly effective and far-reaching devolution should seek to put in place a Transport for London-style model for Sheffield, giving integrated and holistic control over all transport systems, which will deliver the greatest benefits in the long term.”

He went on to say that the housing commitments are vague but that making public sector land work harder for Sheffield’s economy is a good thing.

“Ultimately, of biggest concern, is the fact that – unlike the Manchester Deal – there is no Mayor on offer for Sheffield, which would have been important to providing the legitimacy and strategic oversight to make the most of these new powers, and to plan for future economic growth.”