Writing a column entitled ‘In A Nutshell’ when the theme is devolution…
It’s fair to say, I’ve had less daunting editorial tasks.
Fortunately for me as the writer – and you as the reader – you’ll find a handy timeline on our website which pulls out some of the key stages for a quick ‘at a glance’ guide.
Plus our If You Ask Me contributors before me have taken a more detailed look at some of the key stages of and issues surrounding devolution, not least of which CMS partner Martin McKervey who is also on the boards for Sheffield City Region LEP and Transport for the North Partnership.
“Sheffield signed up to all this in 2015 and reaffirmed our commitment to this journey in 2016. Earlier this year we hit a bump in the road … Sheffield and Rotherham want to continue the journey, Barnsley and Doncaster have stalled.”
Devolution, says Martin, ‘makes us masters of our own destiny with control over funding and greater freedoms and flexibility in areas such as employment support, skills, business growth, transport, housing, and planning’.
Many of these areas also crop up in MP Louise Haigh’s column, too, identified as ‘the main goals and challenges’ that ‘devolution needs to fulfil’.
Any devolution deal must deliver new resources for our city, too, according to Louise: “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.”
Other areas in the country are already underway with this.
As Martin points out: “Government made it clear that we would need an elected Mayor to access devolved powers and resources. Manchester, Liverpool, the West Midlands and Tees Valley had elections this year and they now have mayors and are benefiting from new devolved funding and new powers.”
Whereas the city business region remains – at time of writing – still stuck on what Louise Haigh refers to as ‘the debate about the geography of devolution’, a phrase which gave me a real sense of déjà vu.
In February last year I attended a summit on HS2 organised by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce which heard from a panel of speakers from across the UK and Europe.
Addressing the ‘Victoria versus Meadowhall’ station location debate, finance expert Justin Urquhart Stewart told the summit: “It is a rather parochial attitude and the longer you take to decide what’s going on the more it erodes confidence.”
Urging the city region to be more imaginative and ambitious, Justin finished saying: “Make a decision, get on with it and make it happen.”
I suspect he, like many others, may be similarly frustrated by our lack of progress when it comes to devolution, too.
But I’ll end on a more uplifting note – just as Louise and Martin did – by using their closing quotes:
“It is time then to get back on track with our devolution journey.”
“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.”