I wonder if like me, you have misgivings about the proposal that is about to come before Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to approve the creation of a Sheffield City Region Mayor, or if you even realised a Sheffield Mayor would govern Rotherham also.
I have to admit to having reservations about the idea of directly elected Mayors in the first place, as it places enormous power in the hands of single individual instead of dispersing power among a group of equals.
But unfortunately this particular proposal is the worst of all worlds, because unlike the London Mayor who has a directly elected assembly, (elected by proportional representation, ensuring all political parties in the capital have a voice in scrutinising the mayor) the Sheffield Region will have no such body, but instead will have a panel of the leaders of the nine local council authorities of the region, to supposedly scrutinise the Mayor.
The problem with this is that of those nine local authorities, (i.e. Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Bolsover and Bassetlaw) eight of them are run by the Labour Party, so along with having an almost certain Labour Mayor, 8 of the 9 people who would be scrutinising the Mayor’s decisions would also be Labour, so again we have Labour scrutinising Labour, what could possibly go wrong?
What’s even more astonishing though is that of those nine local authorities, only the people of four South Yorkshire towns will get to vote for this Mayor, the other five areas are classed as non-constituent authorities.
These five areas while not being able to vote for a Sheffield Mayor will still get to set the priorities of the Sheffield Mayor. Have you ever heard of something so bizarre? Furthermore, I understand the citizens of Chesterfield will get a vote for a Nottingham City Region Mayor! What’s that all about?
Not surprisingly our local council leaders are all in favour of this deal as it will give Labour untrammeled power despite the fact that the only independent consultation of the plan was undertaken by Sheffield Citizens Assembly, who looked in great detail at the proposals but rejected them by 2 to 1 and instead vote by 77% to 19% in favour of a Yorkshire Regional Assembly (like the Welsh Parliament).
The Government tell us that if we reject a Sheffield City Region Mayor that we are rejecting devolution, just like they told that if we rejected the Alternative Vote Referendum we were rejecting voting reform.
The Government instead of offering a menu of possible devolution deals, offer us a single awful deal and tell us that if we don’t accept it we don’t want devolution. So why apart from the obvious offer of power do our local council leaders recommend this deal ? (from a partisan Tory Chancellor)
The council leaders argue we’ll get £30 million a year for the next 30 years, but the government are cutting far more than £30 million a year from the local authorities of the region, clearly the Governments interest here is to turn round and blame the Region for all the cuts and the local Labour Party are falling for this rubbish.
What in the effect the Government is saying here is “I’ll give you a tenner a year to accept this deal” while taking a hundred pound a year out of our back pocket.
So, having looked at this deal myself and being a fairly engaged citizen I went online to find out when the consultation opens only to find to my disbelief that the consultation closed on 15th January.
How many of the 2.5 million people this affects even knew of the consultation?
So there we have it folks, in the best traditions of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, they whisper that there’s a consultation, then they announce that no one has any objections to the proposal!