Feb 21 2018

South Yorkshire’s business community is moving ahead with Sheffield City Region

The delayed election of Sheffield’s mayor is still riddled with unresolved political issues that threaten the whole devolution project.

But while the politician’s bicker, South Yorkshire’s business community has been making moves to ensure the Sheffield City Region (SCR) succeeds.

Laura Bennett, 31, was recently appointed to the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Sheffield City Region has a history of independent, ambitious people who become entrepreneurs and so we’ve got to get going and do stuff to help them succeed.”

Ms Bennett was a key player in the city’s bid for Channel 4 and has worked on connecting the SCR to TechNation – a nationwide body representing the countries digital businesses.

She is the third woman to be appointed to the 11-member LEP which advises the council on Sheffield’s economic priorities.

The Sheffield City Region is due to elect its mayor in May that would have jurisdiction over Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

But the councils involved in the devolution negotiation still have not agreed what powers the mayor will actually have.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that voters will spend £1m of taxpayer’s money on electing a mayor who will just be another suit in the room.

Many businesses within South Yorkshire have enthusiastically backed the devolution deal and the stalemate over the mayor has been a constant source of frustration.

Anne Wilson, managing director of Numill Engineering, said: “It’s something we really do need to get on with and it’s something this region needs. Hopefully, we can get on with it soon and elect a mayor who is truly representative of the region that will be able to take our issues directly to Downing Street, to the central government to fight for our region, that’s what we need from our Mayor.”

Mrs Wilson, 59, was awarded an MBE in 2016 for her services to engineering and has led several business trips to Poland under the SCR’s banner promoting the region’s potential.

The key issue preventing the full implementation of the devolution deal is Barnsley and Doncaster local council’s decision to withdraw from the SCR and back a ‘One Yorkshire’ project.

The One Yorkshire idea is backed by 18 of Yorkshire’s 20 local authorities (Sheffield and Rotherham being the two opposed to the idea) and would see a mayor elected for the entire county.

Doncaster and Barnsley argue that the SCR would be too weak to have any real clout in Westminster, whereas a mayor representing all of Yorkshire would be one of the most powerful offices in the Country.

But the government has rejected the idea, stating Barnsley and Doncaster agreed to the original devolution deal for the SCR and that it was the only path forward.

Mrs Wilson, 59, said: “At the moment there’s only one deal on the table, we’ve got to grab that offer and that deal for here for now at least let’s start that journey, whenever we procrastinate we are missing out on opportunities that could make our city region better and stronger.”

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