The Sheffield City Region devolution deal is one of the hottest topics of the moment within South Yorkshire business. Here, Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh has her say.

Through all the debate about the geography of devolution to South Yorkshire, it can be easy to forget the main goals we want devolution to fulfill and the challenges we need to face.

Sheffield is Britain’s ninth biggest economy, generating over £11 billion a year. Despite this contribution, it has some of the lowest wages of the major conurbations. According to a recent Government report, Sheffield is 212th in the country for social mobility – among the Northern cities behind Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Hull and York, and an independent report earlier this year found that Sheffield was the lowest paid city in the country.

Fixing this gap must be a priority and a test for devolution, giving us the powers to invest in the skills and infrastructure needed to make Sheffield fit for the future economy. It’s not only an issue of fairness for people living here, it’s vital for businesses too, ensuring that graduates from our two universities stay for the opportunities our city can offer rather than graduating and leaving.

For any devolution deal eventually passed in Sheffield, transport will be a top concern. The state of rail and road transport between Sheffield and Manchester is not just an uncomfortable inconvenience for travellers, it restricts the prospects for economic growth in both cities.

The Government’s U-turn on rail electrification this summer cost us a reduction in journey times of nearly 40%, plus the chance to cut journey times to Leeds by a quarter and now we learn they’ve cancelled plans for the new line between Sheffield and Manchester.

The diesel bi-mode trains they’re instead pushing will not deliver anything like the improvements in speed and pollution that proper electrification would have offered. South Yorkshire urgently needs electrification on the Transpennine and Midland Main Lines, and a devolution deal which enables us to push hard for or even part fund this work will be a crucial test of its ability to deliver jobs and growth for South Yorkshire.

It’s not just physical infrastructure we would need to equip our economy for the future. A devolved authority would need the power to rejuvenate our badly underperforming digital infrastructure too. Of the 63 urban areas studied by the Centre for Cities, Sheffield ranks 59th for access to superfast broadband, with access rates in 2016 of just 40%.

While Google’s Digital Garage has done good work in widening access to digital skills, there is only so much they can do when the basic resources are not in place for our digital economy. With the coming fourth industrial revolution, our tech industry – and other sectors adapting well to the change – could be a leading player in Britain, but only if we are prepared.

Any devolution deal must deliver new resources for our city. It would give scant comfort to be given the power to decide on skills and infrastructure policy ourselves, only to find no funds to make them work for Sheffield. But I believe that with the right powers and funding, devolution can help put Sheffield and South Yorkshire back at the top of the league tables where we belong.