We have learned in the weeks following the announcement of the Manchester deal that the acceptance of a directly elected city-region leader was a non-negotiable issue for the Chancellor and the Treasury. Their position has been clear from the outset that for substantial new strategic planning and economic development powers to be transferred to the city-region level, the existing combined authority arrangements would need to be strengthened by a directly elected Mayor….
The same cannot be said of the current deal in place for the Sheffield city-region. Although featuring a number of encouraging commitments to explore new working arrangements between local leaders and National Government, the city-region is not being handed new powers or direct control over substantial revenue streams or the critical drivers of growth on anything like the same scale as Greater Manchester. There is, for example, no Sheffield equivalent of the reformed ‘Earnback’ infrastructure investment arrangements, nor devolved transport budgets, nor the housing investment fund that Greater Manchester stands to benefit from.
The primary reason for this appears to be that an agreement could not be reached locally over the establishment of a city-region-wide Mayor akin to the London or new Greater Manchester models. Indeed, when assessing the potential for further devolution, the document states that “Sheffield City Region will consider different options for improving local governance and accountability. In response to any further agreements on local governance, Government will consider what further powers and funding could be devolved to Sheffield City Region over time”.