At an extraordinary meeting of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority yesterday morning the leaders of the member councils couldn’t agree on the terms of a recommendation to initiate public consultation on mayoral powers relating to devolution.
The May 2018 Mayoral election will still go ahead, but – unless something changes in the meantime – the Mayor’s ability to promote and influence devolution will be hugely constrained.
Not what was envisaged when SCRCA was constituted and not good for the Northern Powerhouse concept overall, given how hard its proponents have had to work since the General Election and George Osborne’s departure into journalism, robbing it of its most prominent support in the Cabinet.
Is this the first crack in the facade of universal devolution across the North, or just a spat over local issues which will soon be forgotten in the grand scheme of things?
Certainly at the GMCC/ University of Salford Construction Summit North last week there was a real feeling of optimism. The momentum of devolution and what is beginning to be seen as the “one voice of the North” is contributing to a degree of confidence that the North can “shout back” – as Professor Peter McDermott, of UOS and the mastermind of the Summit, put it – at Westminster. In particular, the Farmer Review and the slowly developing Construction Sector Plan are seen as a means by which the Northern Powerhouse can re-state its case and demand some real commitment, investment and progress.
Let’s see whether the Steel City Region can sharpen up and get back on board the Devolution express…