Motion to Approve
That the draft order laid before the House on 29 June be approved.
Relevant document: 22nd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee
My Lords, the draft order that we are considering this afternoon, if approved and made, will implement the devolution deal agreed between the Government and the Sheffield City Region. It confers powers on the mayor and combined authority relating to transport; education; skills and training; and housing, regeneration and planning. It also amends certain of the combined authority’s governance arrangements to reflect these powers and the role of the mayor.
The order, if approved and made, will unlock £30 million of annual investment funding for South Yorkshire for the next 30 years. It will also lead to devolution of the £35 million annual education budget. The mayor and the combined authority—not Whitehall —will decide how this money is spent, according to local priorities and needs. It is another sign of the Government’s commitment to put power back into the hands of local people. Together, these powers and this funding will drive growth, create opportunities for people who live and work in South Yorkshire and contribute to the city region’s economic and social recovery from Covid-19.
The order will give effect to the provisions of the devolution deal, namely: giving the mayor control over a consolidated and devolved transport budget; conferring duties on the combined authority to promote and provide education and training; giving the combined authority the same land acquisition and disposal powers that Homes England already has; allowing the mayor to establish mayoral development areas, a necessary step to establish mayoral development corporations in the future; and granting the mayor the general power of competence, which will enable him to prepare and publish a spatial strategy for the combined authority area, subject to the unanimous consent of the constituent councils and the combined authority. The order also includes constitutional provisions reflecting the powers conferred on and the role of the mayor. The mayor must be in the majority of members in favour of any decision that the combined authority makes regarding the new powers conferred by this order. The combined authority may establish an independent remuneration panel to recommend the allowances of the mayor and deputy mayor.
This order will be made, if Parliament approves, under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, as amended by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. As required by the 2016 Act, along with this order, we have laid a report that provides details about the public authority functions that we are devolving to the combined authority, some of which will be exercisable by the mayor. The statutory origin of this order is in a governance review and scheme adopted in January 2020 by the combined authority with its four constituent councils, in accordance with the requirements of the 2009 Act. The scheme proposed additional funding functions to be conferred on the combined authority, as envisaged in the devolution deal, specified those that would be exercised by the mayor and proposed certain amendments to governance arrangements.
As provided for by the 2009 Act, the combined authority and the councils consulted on the proposals in their scheme, promoting the consultation through regional and local media, social media and posters in public buildings. Responses were accepted through the combined authority website, as well as via email, letter and hard copy form. This public consultation ran from 3 February to 15 March 2020 and 675 responses were received. As statute requires, the combined authority provided the Secretary of State with a summary of the responses to the consultation in April. The consultation results show that the proposals are strongly supported by the public and stakeholders. Almost 90% of respondents supported the principle of devolution from Whitehall to metro mayors and combined authorities. All seven questions posed in the consultation received clear majority support, with five receiving positive responses of 80% or above.
In laying this draft order before Parliament, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the statutory tests in the 2009 Act are met and that no further consultation is necessary. Furthermore, as required by statute, the mayor, the combined authority and the four constituent councils have consented to the making of this order.
This draft order, if approved and made, will devolve a range of powers to the mayor and combined authority for the benefit of people who live and work in South Yorkshire. It will drive growth, contribute to the city region’s economic recovery and help deliver this Government’s agenda to level up opportunity and prosperity across the United Kingdom. Reaching this point has not been easy—it has taken five years—and I pay tribute to the mayor and local leaders for coming together to provide their unanimous consent to this draft order. Today is a collective, cross-party milestone in South Yorkshire’s devolution journey and I commend this draft order to the House. I beg to move.
I declare a non-remunerated interest as chair of the Sheffield City Partnership board. I very strongly welcome this order. As the Minister has spelled out, it has been a very long and winding road over the last five years. I am sorry that my video is not enabled on Zoom, but one of the challenges for South Yorkshire is to ensure that we have sustained and sustainable internet connection.
This order is crucial, not just in terms of the devolved powers that the Minister spelled out, nor even the limited resource that immediately goes with them, but rather because it is the beginning of an entirely new era for South Yorkshire and beyond. I congratulate Dan Jarvis, the elected mayor, on his patience and his skill in bringing people together, and the local authority leaders and councils for at last coming together and being prepared to see a way forward which is beneficial to our local residents. Combined, as it will be in the future, with the development of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority mayor, it is possible that we can build incrementally to real co-operation across the historic county of Yorkshire, with a population somewhat greater than that of Scotland.
We must be able not only to draw on the resources that the Minister has outlined, but also to see this as part of a broader regeneration programme and the fulfilment of promises made by the Conservatives in the December general election, when, in the area around Sheffield, Conservative MPs were elected for the first time. Holding the Government’s feet to the fire is not just about devolution, it is about regeneration and the recovery programme from the Covid-19 hit. It is also about collaboration across the north.
Yesterday, the Northern Transport Acceleration Council was launched—launched, it has to be said, in Greater Manchester. It is time for those east of the Pennines to be able to match not just the collaboration that has been built over years in Greater Manchester, but to build the picture of the north of England combining the east and west of the Pennines together. We need Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Hull and beyond to punch their weight—to be able to come together in an action plan that will allow us to use the tremendous resource and research capacity of our universities for knowledge transfer into that regeneration programme. We must link, yes, Sheffield and Manchester, ensuring that the voice of the north can be heard clearly, but also the north as a whole, east and not just west of the Pennines. Together, building from the bottom, we can do it.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and I will stand for the north of England together, but I think we might disagree about how to do it. I speak as a Liberal Democrat and many members of the party will support what I am going to say. This order is one relatively minor part of the Conservative Government’s intentions to drastically reorganise local government throughout England; to do so at ridiculous speed and with little regard for the wishes of people in communities and local areas; and to effectively abolish local democracy in vast areas of England, notably in the shires but in a lot of other places, too. I remind the House of my interest as a district councillor, not in Yorkshire but within spitting distance, just over the border in Pendle.
The Government are embarking on this ludicrous and disgraceful ambition in the middle of by far the biggest crisis that this country and its local councils have seen since the Second World War—one in which every sinew and every effort needs to be focused on clearing out Covid and rebuilding our economy, our society and our services, so many of which require the total attention of our elected local councils and councillors. Instead, we shall see the waste of many millions of pounds—every reorganisation costs millions and we are threatened with a large pile of them—the diversion of the time and energy of council staff and councillors, and enormous losses of skills and local and historical knowledge as people retire at the very time when they are desperately needed. But, of course, the people in Whitehall and Westminster always know best, as we have seen from the enormous success of the centralised, top-down schemes to tackle local Covid-19 outbreaks, while the local people with those skills and knowledge have repeatedly complained of being sidelined or ignored. For the benefit of Hansard, let me say that that sentence should carry an ironic emoticon. Why do the very clever but often ignorant people at the top never learn?
In spite of my origins in Yorkshire, I do not want to interfere in an internal Yorkshire dispute between One Yorkshire and this distinctly less ambitious proposal, except that I see no dispute. There is almost unanimity in support of One Yorkshire, except in the Government. Is this because One Yorkshire could be the start of genuine regional devolution in England, instead of this rather shoddy plan? This will not be devolution at all. The powers that are to be shared with local authorities will inevitably be gathered up by the combined authority from the councils. Proposals that will be concurrent—a sinister, bureaucratic word, in my view—with central government will inevitably be met by that Government with something like, “We hear what you say, and thank you for your ideas, but if you want the brass, this is what you will do.” We have seen this far too often.
We hear that they are coming next for Lancashire, in the near future. Let me warn them: in some areas of the country at least, if they press on with the destruction of local democracy, it will be nothing but pain for the Conservative Party in some of the very towns that have given it its majority in this Parliament. There will be battles ahead all over the country—all over England—and the Government must not think that they will easily win all of them.
My Lords, your Lordships might find it a little strange that someone with the titles of Shrewsbury and Waterford would wish to speak on the Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2020, so it would seem that I have a bit of explaining to do.
It is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. His city, Sheffield, is a great city which has been an integral part of my family’s history for more than 600 years. George Talbot, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, was born in 1528 and during his life, among many other achievements, he did two spectacular things. He married Bess of Hardwick and he was Mary, Queen of Scots’ friend and custodian for more than 15 years, being present at her execution at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587. My noble friend—it gives me great pleasure to call him that, because he is a noble friend of mine—Lord McAvoy, the Opposition Chief Whip has never let me forget the fact that, in his words almost every time I meet him, “You dreadful so-and-so, you murdered the only true Queen of England.” A bit like those who cannot forget the Highland clearances, the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, also has a very long memory.
Many years ago, when the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, was leader of Sheffield City Council, I was invited to visit the Manor Estate in Sheffield—I have been back many times since—by a gentleman called Keith Cheetham. Keith was in charge of tourism at the council and was an enthusiastic expert on the Queen of Scots. I went with a television crew to remember the 400th anniversary of the queen’s death. Walking up the staircase of the old lodge on the Manor Estate, I arrived at the top floor. It was completely bare of furniture except for what I thought was an effigy of the queen seated in a chair in the corner. I turned to my host and said, “My word, Mr Cheetham, Madame Tussauds makes the most lifelike wax effigies, does it not?”. At that point, the effigy stood up, moved towards me and said, “My Lord Shrewsbury, I have not seen you for all these years.” It was the closest I have ever been to having a heart attack.
George Talbot fell out with his wife, the redoubtable Bess, and spent the remainder of his days living with a young lady on his Manor estate in Sheffield. His magnificent tomb is in the Talbot chapel in Sheffield Cathedral, where I have the honour to be high steward. So I am pretty fond of Sheffield. It is the capital city of the Peak District and the surrounding area in South Yorkshire.
I welcome this order, which is a very positive move, and the plan to create an MIT of the north centred in Sheffield. There is huge potential there to unlock. The universities of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam are centres of excellence, especially in engineering and manufacturing research. The work they carry out is of outstanding quality.
This order is good for Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield and the wider surrounding area. It has been a long time in the making. It has the potential to transform their economy and future. I wish them every possible success.
I must begin by declaring a very large interest in this order as a resident of Sheffield, from where I am speaking now, and by admitting that I am torn in my approach.
I welcome any devolution of power and resources, but that South Yorkshire has done remarkably badly from the stranglehold of distant Westminster is a statement of the obvious, whether you look at our average income, gross value added—which is less than half of London’s—or whether I contrast the environment I see walking along the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal to what I used to see walking along Regent’s Canal near my old home in Camden, north London.
However, the stuttering, agonised birth of the combined authority could be taken as a case study for how not to do devolution—imposed from the centre, with the fractious involvement of a handful of local people, legal action and conflict. All of this was conducted largely out of sight and out of mind of the public. I doubt that if you stopped 100 people in the streets of Sheffield today, you would find one who knew that this order is now before Parliament. You would be lucky to find one who knows who the incumbent mayor of the Sheffield City Region is, although a few might know him from his other job as an MP.
This order is not a solution, and it cannot provide a long-term way forward. As we seek to rebuild from the shock of Covid-19 and face the climate crisis and the danger of social and economic collapse from poverty and inequality, we need to build back better. We should really start with democracy.
I am indebted to a local activist and philosopher, Simon Duffy, for a useful comparison between Iceland and the area of the combined authority, which are roughly equal in population. Iceland has a President, a 63-member parliament and scores of local government bodies with a powerful and recognised place in the constitution, with control over kindergartens, public schools, waste management, social services, public housing, transport, and services to senior citizens and disabled people. It also has an effective and fair welfare system and a much better performing economy—and it put 36 bankers in jail after the financial crash. Dr Duffy, like myself, is a campaigner for a Yorkshire parliament, for a widespread, deep consultation with the people of Yorkshire to create a genuinely democratic structure with real power and resources, which is not what this order does.
The failure of our creaking, antique, accidentally accreted constitutional arrangements are visible everywhere in the UK, from your Lordships’ House outwards. However, there are few places where the human and environmental consequences are more obvious than Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. We have to do much better than this. That means going to the people, finding out what they want and delivering it.
My Lords, I strongly welcome this order, as did most of those who responded to the public consultation, as the Minister said. Many of us very much hoped that my noble friend Lord Blunkett would be the metro mayor after his outstanding record in government and as leader of Sheffield City Council, but I remember that, when I asked him whether he would put his name forward, he told me that the equally brilliant Dan Jarvis would do the job instead. Dan is excellent, and this order and the progress that has been made in devolution are a tribute to him too.
There is always a danger in this game that the best will be the enemy of the good. I agree that we should have more devolution and that there should be more local control. Whether it is possible for Sheffield to go wholly in the direction of Iceland is debatable; after all, Iceland is an island surrounded by sea, whereas Sheffield has the Peak District to its west, which I would say is more beautiful than anything Iceland can offer. None the less, it is not an independent state and will not become one any time soon. That goes to the heart of the issue of the powers to be devolved to the mayor of South Yorkshire, which is strategic. The strategic connectivity of South Yorkshire with its neighbouring regions and other parts of Yorkshire, and its ability to get strategic plans in place, particularly for skills, is vital.
I will highlight one issue in particular. The strategic connectivity of the Midlands and the north will be transformed over the next 20 years by HS2. How the regions and cities of the Midlands and the north integrate with HS2 will be a critical driver of their prosperity over the next generation. I am delighted that, on a cross-party basis, the first phase of HS2 from London to Birmingham and the West Midlands is currently being constructed. There are more than 200 construction sites at the moment. They are coping well with all the Covid-19 constraints and work is proceeding. The legislation for phase 2b of HS2, from Birmingham to Crewe, is currently before a committee of your Lordships’ House, which is good as well. We hope that will become law this autumn.
The next critical issue is what happens to what is called phase 2b, going north-west through Crewe to Manchester, and going north-east through Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds. This has been delayed for a review. As the Minister will know, I think it was a mistake to conduct the review. The Prime Minister has said that his mantra is “Build, build, build”; in respect of phase 2b, what is actually happening is “Delay, delay, delay”. It has been rumoured in the media in recent weeks that the Government may pull entirely the Birmingham to Leeds section of HS2, going north-east, and that Leeds will be connected to HS2 instead by a route from Manchester. That would devastate the economy of South Yorkshire. I know the mayor takes a strong view that a key priority is that HS2 from Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds should proceed. I invite the Minister in his reply to commit the Government to proceeding with this vital piece of connectivity, without which the mayor of South Yorkshire will be impotent to promote the interests of his region.
My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s statement on this order. Rotherham Council has recovered well from its dire problems, and we wish it well in its union with Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield. As has been mentioned already, Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central and Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, deserves great credit for all his hard work to make this happen. He was aided by Dame Louise Casey, South Yorkshire Police and many others. The Minister in another place, Simon Clarke, has played an important role in the negotiations, free of party politics.
We should also pay tribute to the staff of Northern College, who initiated important work to support victims of trafficking and modern slavery. We certainly cannot pretend that what happened in Rotherham was unique. It was a wake-up call for many people who had no idea how prevalent this scourge is throughout the United Kingdom. According to official figures, as many as 100,000 victims are involved. When I first spoke on this many years ago in your Lordships’ House, and elsewhere in the UK and abroad, very few believed it. Now we have to believe it. We have to broadcast it and continue to fight tooth and nail to do away with it.
My Lords, in their 2019 manifesto the Government outlined their ambition for full devolution across England. In my view, the most important part of the SI is the appointment of a mayor with powers to lead to the development of significant budgets, including investment funds of £900 million over 30 years. It will also confer authority over planning, housing, transport, and skills and education functions, and devolution of the annual £35 million adult education budget.
I will speak specifically about the SI’s impact on the education sector. Education is the key to the development of human society. A well-educated person has skills that enable her or him to earn, provide for their family and escape from a vicious cycle of poverty. The family’s quality of life is protected and future generations will also get security. The appointment of a mayor with these powers will cut bureaucracy and benefit these communities.
My Lords, this is a sad day for Yorkshire, ahead of Yorkshire Day on 1 August. This subregion order marks the first real formal act of wrecking the early prospect of serious regional government for Yorkshire, and indeed of breaking local government in much of Yorkshire.
The Government know that the overwhelming opinion in Yorkshire is for a devolution settlement for the whole of Yorkshire—a One Yorkshire deal. Sadly, the Government are frightened of a strong Yorkshire. I find that amazing, bearing in mind that that is such a popular position. They are keen to split the county.
It was, of course, a Conservative Government who introduced two-tier local government in 1974, bringing in metropolitan county councils, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, and Humberside. Again, it was a Conservative Government who abolished these bodies in 1987. Now there is a resurrection into metro bodies—South Yorkshire today and West Yorkshire coming, as a precursor to North Yorkshire and the east to follow.
This is governmental hokey-cokey, but now with a difference. The edict is “No devolution without local government reorganisation”. The sights are next on North Yorkshire to produce one-tier local government, getting rid of seven district councils and creating a so-called local council from west of Settle, in sight of the Irish Sea, to Scarborough on the North Sea coast. It might be government, but it certainly will not be local—and the Government expect agreement about this in two months. This is going on at the same time as a reduction in democracy and democratic involvement in the national park authority.
We have in prospect a diminution of local involvement and local participation, and not a genuine region. It is a bad day for Yorkshire.
My Lords, I am not sure how to follow some of the speeches that have been made so far. They have certainly been diverse and entertaining—at times. I welcome the order and congratulate all those who have been involved in the very difficult negotiations around the establishment of the new combined authority. In particular, as my noble friend Lord Adonis mentioned, I praise the hard work of Dan Jarvis MP as the Sheffield City Mayor in pulling people together and finding a way forward. I hope that this is an initial step and that there will be further devolution of more power and more resources, perhaps to a bigger authority covering and combining more of Yorkshire in the future. But it is a step in the right direction and we should welcome it for that reason.
As the Government move further in this direction—rightly, in my opinion—to create more and stronger voices around the country, we can reflect on the fact that over recent months in both the West Midlands and Manchester we have seen the benefit of having strong local mayors who can speak on behalf of their region at a time of national crisis. We should encourage this development of stronger voices throughout the whole country to diversify political debate away from your Lordships’ House, the House of Commons and Whitehall and into the regions and, of course, already, the nations of the United Kingdom.
However, we also need to have more energy in pushing this agenda—more ambition, perhaps. I welcome the fact that the Government are committed to more investment and diversification of jobs and institutions around the country, in particular to the north. Alongside that, there should be stronger recognition of the need for devolution of political power, so that power is diversified around the country and people are not just allocated benefits from Westminster and Whitehall but can take control of their own destiny and speak for themselves.
In line with that, I again urge the Government, as I have in the past—I recognise that this may now be in the longer term, since they have taken a stance against this in the short term—to look ahead and move away from a situation where those who speak for and work with the nations and regions of the country inside the UK Government are diversified between a Scotland Office that is largely redundant, a Wales Office, a Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The creation of a proper department of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom—a fourth great office of state with a powerful seat at the Cabinet table—would be a far better position for the nations and regions to be in, in terms of dialogue with central government. It would also be better for central government to have to recognise the importance of the different parts of the United Kingdom.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, with interest as he laid out the benefits in store for those living in the combined authority area, but I was not convinced.
I have read the instrument and can see that the four constituent councils can elect from their membership one councillor to sit on the authority, plus a second councillor to be a rotational second member. They will undoubtedly be the leaders. These four will then choose from the four rotational members who will sit on the authority each year for a one-year term. These original four councillors are the only ones with votes. The non-constituent councils can each appoint one member to be on the combined authority, and again can appoint a second rotational councillor. These councillors have no voting rights.
The order has an amendment, at Article 19(3):
“In paragraph 3 (proceedings), after sub-paragraph (6) insert—‘(7) Questions relating to the functions conferred by Parts 2 to 5 of the Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2020 cannot be carried without a vote in favour by the Mayor or the deputy Mayor acting in place of the Mayor.’”
None of these councillors will be directly elected to the combined authority. I do not know about your Lordships, but this is not my idea of democracy.
The Government dangle extra money and supposed powers in front of councils to get them to dance to their tune. Local government reorganisation causes a lot of anxiety and distress, especially for those district councils delivering services at the front line. Their voters are not clamouring for this to happen. During the Covid-19 lockdown, districts have really risen to the challenge, but their voice is often ignored in the rush by the larger councils in a money-grabbing exercise. I agree that there is some merit in having decisions taken locally.
The non-constituent councils—that is, those which are not part of the combined authority—are Chesterfield Borough Council and Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Derbyshire Dales and North East Derbyshire District Councils. These councils have a seat at the table but no voting rights.
All this upheaval for an extra £30 million a year—that sounds a lot, but the combined authority covers a large area. It will need to be very wise to make it stretch to cover its aspirations. Can the Minister tell the House how the Government can commit an additional £30 million a year for 30 years for this new combined authority at a time when the country is plunging into recession and uncertainty?
My Lords, I am very pleased to join this debate, resulting in, I hope, the confirmation of the new devolution arrangements for South Yorkshire. I declare a particular interest as co-chair of the One Yorkshire campaign, which has been working for recognition of the Yorkshire brand in the way we are governed for the past five years, and as a former MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber and MP for Leeds North East.
Today we are recognising one element of the recognition of one Yorkshire, but it is by no means the end of the process of moving power back to the people of our great region. This order looks like being the first of several sub-region deals which we are anticipating, with deals for West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and York and Hull and east Yorkshire to follow. Currently the latter are being negotiated, but inevitably those arrangements are not without controversy, with the Government requiring the abolition of many fine district councils as the price of progress. I have serious reservations about that and I know that I am not alone.
However, my concept, and that of so many other Yorkshire people, which is still ultimately to end up with one entity, has been helped by the creation in the interim of a Yorkshire-wide council leaders board, supported by government and with financial resources and the encouragement of other region-wide entities in the fields of infrastructure, tourism and economic development. That is sensible. Of course, the northern powerhouse continues with its wider role.
Devolution is a complex process in which many long-established and historic positions and relationships are under pressure. It is not all easy going and straightforward. Nothing is, of course. Like all major constitutional processes, there will be losers as well as gainers. We must be sure not to diminish democracy and the benefits of bringing power closer to the people in one part of the region in the process of the overall pursuit of the deployment of powers away from Whitehall and Westminster to the wider body of interests.
The Government and my honourable friend the Minister Simon Clarke defined one purpose for devolution as
“to level up our country and transform the growth prospects of communities and the life chances of their residents.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/20; col. 3.]
The 2009 Act set statutory requirements for changes to reflect the identities and interests of local communities. While I welcome this order as being at least partially compliant with those ambitions, it must be regarded as just the start of a much wider exercise, leading ultimately to the real prize: a united, one Yorkshire entity truly in line with the aspirations and ambitions of the people here in God’s own country.
I do not profess to be an expert on anything in your Lordships’ House, but I know a little about combined authorities, having been one of the leaders of the first combined authority, Greater Manchester. The trail-blazing deal that we negotiated with the Government has made real changes, especially in health and social care. Sometimes when we talk about local authorities, combined authorities and city regions, we seem to forget the real changes we can make to real people’s lives. I know that in Greater Manchester people’s health and social care is better because of the combined authority.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, is quite right that there has been a bit of a tour de force today ranging from HS2 to women having their head chopped off a few centuries ago. The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, is right that one Yorkshire would be the preferred option, but sometimes in life you do not get your preferred option, so I welcome this order, with guarded support for Sheffield.
Noble Lords need to understand some of the difficulties that we found and I find with combined authorities. That is the price of them. The price of devolution is elected mayors. That can be a real issue. I understand the principle of elected mayors: they are there to take the rap and to make the tough decisions. They are accountable to the people and can be thrown out. In theory, this is an excellent strategy, but in practice, it does not work because many combined authorities of whatever political make-up are one-party states, so the elected mayor does not have autonomy or the ability to override the eight or 10 Conservative or Labour leaders because he knows that he may not get support to be mayor again. Have the Government given any thought to making the price of devolution—an elected mayor—non-political? If you were to take the politics out of the elected mayor, it would alleviate a lot of Members’ concerns expressed today that this is just another tier of government and another tier of bureaucracy. An elected mayor who is not politically connected could make real differences to real people’s lives. I hope someone gives some thought to that.
My Lords, when we shift to York, as the Prime Minister is rightly demanding that we do, I will be available, as I am sure others will be, to give guided tours to Peers who are not too familiar with the region. I will need to pack a lot of sandwiches, because my guided tour will be by railway, and getting around Yorkshire by railway will require breakfast, dinner and tea to be provided. That might be a shock for those familiar with the transport systems of places such as London. That is precisely why Mayor Jarvis is right to have negotiated this strategic authority. We cannot hope to compete with China, India and Germany if we do not strengthen our manufacturing, skills and technology. This measure, in its small, modest way, crucially gives that opportunity in a far bigger way.
I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, say that nobody has heard of Mayor Jarvis in South Yorkshire. She is entitled to stand against him in an election if she is unhappy with the job he is doing. The truth is that people have high regard for him and for what he is attempting to do because they understand the importance of strategic transport, skills, engineering and manufacturing. I hope that we will not lose issues which cross regional borders, such as the postal service, the organisation of further education and, of course, rail and roads, such as the A57, which are often badly underinvested in precisely when they get near regional borders.
Perhaps most politically, but most importantly, there is health. Health from South Yorkshire cuts across into the north Midlands, and I trust that the Minister will confirm that if it is ever attempted to devolve health to the mayor of this new authority, there will be a full public consultation on how best that should be done so that we do not throw away the good that is already there for the improvements that the Government are rightly putting forward today. We, as Members of the House of Lords, should be congratulating Dan Jarvis and those who have driven this order through. This is a good day for Yorkshire, and I hope that the South Yorkshire England cricket captain Joe Root will be leading us to another victory just as we vote through this measure.
My Lords, on first inspection, this Motion appears a rather dry topic, but from the notable speeches that we have heard from my noble friends Lord Blunkett and Lord Adonis and many other contributors, it is clear that it is far from that. My reason for wanting to speak in this debate dates back to the discussions that I was involved in at the inception of the combined authority and mayoralty. At that time, I was the general secretary of the Labour Party, which has a long history of commitment to devolution, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, and many others, and to moving resources and decision-making closer to the people who ultimately rely on those resources and powers.
Like many before me, I want to pay tribute to Dan Jarvis and the local leaders who have helped to shape this new combined authority in South Yorkshire. It has taken a huge effort to get here today. Unlike many other combined authorities and mayoralties, this did not come ready made and agreed; Dan and the local authority leaders have built it from scratch. I remember speaking to Dan before the mayoral selections and saying to him, “Let me get this right. You want to stand for selection to become the mayor of a combined authority with no agreed parameters, no staff allocated, no clear mandate on remit or powers, no offices to work from and no agreed salary or terms and conditions.” Dan just looked at me and said, “Well, yeah. We can use this as a step to deliver for the people of South Yorkshire.” It has taken us five years, but we are further down that road. Devolution is a process—it is not an event—and this is part of that process.
These decisions today will put the structures in place to allow local plans to help the transformation of South Yorkshire. What South Yorkshire and many other local authorities need is resources, both financial and practical. This order helps to set out the structure and the framework, but it is only a start in moving the money. Let us not forget that, from 2010 onwards, we saw the new coalition Government impose austerity across local authorities and local government. Let us not forget the tens of millions of pounds that were stripped from local government over the preceding decade.
These measures will support the anchoring institutions —local universities and colleges, South Yorkshire Police, the NHS and local authorities—to work to deliver for the people. We all want to see a stronger, fairer and greener economy come from this crisis, so I hope that the Motion to approve this order will be the first step in achieving that.
My Lords, I welcome the devolution of power to and investment in Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster, Sheffield and the surrounding areas, as they desperately need resources and investment to help them to transform their region. I understand that, during the consultation, almost 90% of people in South Yorkshire said that they wanted more devolution. I would have been more inclined to support and strengthen the local authorities and county councils in the region to carry forward this devolution but, after a long-winded process, we are where we are. I hope that the people of South Yorkshire will benefit from this devolution deal.
In the short time allocated to me speak on this subject, I will be able only to echo the words of the mayor of Sheffield City Region. Given the pressure on public finances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is even more imperative that the Government unlock the powers and resources in the deal as quickly as possible so that these vitally needed funds can support people, businesses and communities across South Yorkshire. Approving this legislation is a landmark moment in South Yorkshire’s devolution journey. However, it should not be considered the end destination. Much greater powers and resources need to be devolved, bringing decisions much closer to the people they affect. The devolution White Paper due in the autumn and the subsequent spending review due later in the year will be important tests of the Government’s commitment to devolve, and not just decentralise, real powers and investment to combined and local authorities across the country.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for setting out the order with such clarity. I welcome it. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, whom I very much respect, talked about “ridiculous speed”, but one thing this process has not represented is dizzying speed; it has taken a long while, as I think those involved would testify. It has been a long process. In that regard, it would be churlish not to congratulate the mayor, Dan Jarvis, who has shown exemplary patience and commitment to the job in hand.
There is strong local approval for this transfer of power—some 90% is indicated. I thus could not follow the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in this regard. Normally, I follow strongly her vision and clarity, but on this she seemed to set out a dismal litany with regard to what is surely a very welcome move. This represents a massive transfer of power over transport, education, skills and training, housing, regeneration and planning, with £30 million committed every year for 30 years and a £35 million devolved adult education budget too. It is also hard when looking at other great city regions of our nation not to feel that this is the right way forward. Regardless of the party politics, when one looks at the Manchester and West Midlands city regions and leading figures such as Andy Burnham and Andy Street, one sees that it is clearly the right move. I take pride in the fact that, with this order, 63% of northern England is now served by city regions.
I have to say that Yorkshire, great county though it is, is not an economic entity, so I very much welcome this move today. Can the Minister say a little more about progress on Leeds/Bradford, on York and North Yorkshire and on Humberside? On Humberside, this order involving Bassetlaw and north Derbyshire indicates that this is not just a county-led matter. The Minister in the other place indicated progress on those areas and I would welcome the Minister being able to say a little more about that. However, I give unreserved support to the order; it has been a long time in gestation. It is very welcome, and I look forward to more devolution.
My Lords, I remind the House of my registered interests. The Minister reminded us in opening that it has taken a while, some five years, to reach this stage. Indeed, it is rare for us to be in the position of agreeing an order such as this two years after the election of the mayor. At least the order has the benefit of having been much debated. I hope that the advantages of devolving powers from Whitehall to South Yorkshire in the areas of spatial planning, education and skills, transport, and housing and regeneration will now be grasped, and that South Yorkshire will work with the wider area—and right across Yorkshire—to make the most of them.
The last few months have shown that England, with a population of 56 million people, cannot be run out of Whitehall and that maximising local responsibility and control over policy-making and decisions has become essential. Many things will have to change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. I hope that the White Paper, assuming that it is published in the autumn, will reflect that.
From our Benches, we have been reminded by my noble friend Lord Greaves that the White Paper may seek to restructure local government. I hope that our fears in this respect prove unjustified. It would mean a huge wasted effort, with everyone worrying about reorganisation when councils have to rebuild their economies as their absolute priority. They need to be focused on that, not on an ill-timed reorganisation.
My noble friend Lord Shutt said that this was a sad day because it prevents a One Yorkshire approach. Indeed, that is part of the debate that has happened over the last five years, and which will, in the medium to longer term, prove extremely helpful—I will come back to that at the end of my remarks.
My noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville raised important issues regarding local democracy, the role of district councils and the role of the whole combined authority mayoral structure. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to that.
My noble friend Lord Goddard emphasised the benefits of combined authorities, particularly in the health and social care sphere. However, he raised justified concerns about the nature and powers of mayors, which I hope the Minister will reflect on, particularly in regard to a White Paper, if it emerges.
My noble friend Lord Hussain talked about the need for greater powers and resources to be unlocked as quickly as possible as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. I agree entirely with what he said.
Mention has been made of money and the £30 million per year. It is not in fact a large sum of money, albeit it will last for some 30 years, and it will be transferred from other budget heads and so is not really new money at all. However, I hope that the White Paper, should it emerge in the autumn, will address the issue of devolving far more than is currently being devolved, and then devolving the resources to go with that.
However, there is a worrying context to this: the overall financing of local government. There is a crisis in business rates—currently there is a holiday, but it is not clear what the funding structure will be from next April. The Minister will have to address how local authorities will be financed.
Issues have been raised around democracy, as there was no referendum to establish a structure—I have to say that that is not unique in South Yorkshire. When there is a further review of the powers of combined authority mayors, there will be an examination of what has happened in other combined authorities regarding scrutiny and appointments to posts—in other words, how all of these have actually worked. Everything has been done entirely in accordance with the law, but has everything worked as it should?
In that context, the Home Secretary announced this week that she is reviewing the role of police and crime commissioners. Given the closeness of police and crime commissioners to mayors, it would be helpful for any White Paper to reflect that.
In conclusion, the White Paper needs to look at the power of combined authorities to raise their own taxation. We need to look too at scrutiny and how the combined authorities have come and gone. I have noted the comments of a number of speakers, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who talked of this being the beginning of a new era and of the need to build incrementally, and other speakers have reflected that. That is true. I bear the scars of the north-east referendum on devolution for a regional assembly, which was badly lost. There has to be an ongoing debate on devolution. As the noble Lord, Lord Mann, said: do not throw away the good that is already there. I concur with that and I think that a One Yorkshire solution, which I support, can be delivered if the debate takes place on the more secure foundations of the devolved structures that we now have.
My Lords, I declare my relevant interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
I am pleased that we are today approving this order and transferring powers to the mayor and the combined authority. This has not been without its problems and, like many other noble Lords, I have spoken in debate after debate and taken part in many Questions and discussions on these proposals. I was particularly pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, contribute to the debate today; we have spoken many times in the Chamber on this issue. Although I am pleased that the order is here, it is not without controversy, as many noble Lords have said, and I am clear that we will need to go much further in the years ahead.
My noble friend Lord Blunkett rightly paid tribute to Dan Jarvis MP, the metro mayor, and the local authority leaders coming together at what is the beginning of realising the potential of South Yorkshire residents—although, as my noble friend said, with limited resources. My first question to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, is this: how does he see the move to One Yorkshire, which, as many noble Lords have highlighted in the debate, is the desire of the overwhelming majority of all local authorities and communities in that area?
On a general point, the devolution proposals from the Government suffer from three particular problems. First, the level of resources provided is woefully inadequate to enable the true potential to be realised, and that goes for all the deals that I have seen. Secondly, the plans for local government devolution are a confused patchwork across England. There is not a clear plan or map, and that will build up huge problems for the future. Thirdly, the consultation process is weak and flawed. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, made that point, as I have on many previous occasions.
I very much support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, in paying tribute to a number of key individuals, including Dan Jarvis MP. I also support his comments on modern slavery, and I pay tribute to him for all his work in this area. I urge the Minister to go back and speak to his colleagues in the Home Office and get them to take up the issues that the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, has consistently raised in your Lordships’ House.
I very much support the desire to move to more local leaders, with real powers to make decisions to determine the future of the regions, working with their local communities. However, real power has to be devolved. The contribution of my noble friend Lord McConnell reminded me of an article I wrote for the Fabian Society in 2019, on the need for proper devolution in England. I contended that powers should be devolved in areas such as agriculture, rural development, the environment, health, housing, local government, planning, sport and recreation, and tourism.
I also very much agree with my noble friend Lord McConnell on the need for a Secretary of State for the regions and nations to sit around the Cabinet table. There has to be a hard and honest look at the need for separate offices for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as devolution has changed the map of the United Kingdom completely.
I recall the Prime Minister talking a few month ago about improving rail connectivity between Manchester and Leeds. However, people who live in the north-west and Yorkshire will tell you that we also need improved rail connectivity from Liverpool to Hull, going through Bradford, to turbocharge the economy. Only locally elected politicians understand that—the metro mayors, the locally elected Members of Parliament and the locally elected councillors—and therefore the power and resources should be in their hands. I know that it is often easier to say that as an opposition politician, but we also need to follow that through when we are in government.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, that this is progress, and I welcome it. However, we should be seeking to move quickly to One Yorkshire, and I view this order today as a step on the way. English devolution is very much unfinished business.
My Lords, we have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate on the order before the House today, and I thank noble Lords on all sides for their excellent and helpful contributions. As I have outlined, the order represents another significant milestone in the Government’s agenda to level up opportunity and prosperity across the United Kingdom. I will try to respond to as many noble Lords’ points as possible.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, for highlighting his family’s 600-year history with Sheffield and for pointing out that the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University have the opportunity to be an MIT of the north in the fields of engineering and manufacturing research. The Government are supporting that with a £20 million fusion research centre, which will open later this year.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, see this direction of travel as against local democracy; I have to disagree. It heralds an era of accountability and local leadership, led by the mayor. I join the noble Lords, Lord McConnell, Lord Adonis and Lord Kennedy, and my noble friend Lord Bourne in thanking Dan Jarvis MP for his efforts and endeavours in bringing us to this point. I also point out—as did my noble friend Lord McColl—the big role also played by my honourable friend the Minister, Simon Clarke, in achieving this devolution deal, after a long time. I agree to support my noble friend Lord McColl in all his endeavours in the battle against modern slavery. I will take this up at every opportunity with my colleagues in the Home Office.
The order implements commitments made in the 2015 Sheffield City Region devolution deal. We now have the local support needed to implement that deal, with all four councils, the combined authority and the mayor having consented to this order being made. I therefore do not recognise the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, about this being anathema to local democracy. I underline that this also sees the combined authority leadership being ready to receive £35 million for adult education. This devolution in education powers will be important in driving the skills agenda, as highlighted by my noble friend Lord Bourne and the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, called for ambition. I believe that this Government are showing that. We are making huge strides towards the rebalancing of the economy and empowering local government through devolution. Devolution deals are a key part of our plan to support growth up and down the country as we build the economy. As my noble friend Lord Bourne and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, pointed out, we need greater devolution, including recognising the importance of strategic connectivity, which is key to growth. The Government are committed to the benefits of HS2 in the north, for the cities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, and for the East and West Midlands.
At the end of this process, 41% of residents in England are now served by directly elected city region mayors, each of whom has the powers to stimulate job creation, increase skills, build homes and improve transport. As the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, put it, this is the beginning of the process, and of an important new era for South Yorkshire, not the end. We are talking to leaders in York, North Yorkshire, Hull and the East Riding, about possible devolution deals. We are open, in principle, to new deals being completed by May 2022 and concluded by May 2023.
The devolution deal in West Yorkshire was agreed, and announced by the Chancellor in the Budget. It sets out a total package of increased powers and funding for the West Yorkshire area. The deal will provide £1.1 billion of investment funding for the area over 30 years, as well as devolving significant new decision-making powers on transport, housing, planning, education and skills. This agreement is subject to ratification by those councils and the combined authority, and to the statutory requirements for making the secondary legislation implementing the provisions of the deal. It is a significant achievement that, once the West Yorkshire mayoralty stands up next spring, 63% of the north of England will be covered by mayoral combined authorities thereafter. In response to the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, that highlights our level of ambition for devolution.
In answer to the noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Shipley, the future plans for devolution will be set out in the forthcoming devolution White Paper. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, that the PCC review is being taken into consideration. I have already had an initial meeting with Minister Clarke and the Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, on this subject. The noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Shutt, saw this as a bad day for Yorkshire. Like many other noble Lords who have spoken, I see this as a great day for Yorkshire. It is a huge opportunity for South Yorkshire to recover from Covid. Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Greaves, Lord Shutt, Lord Blunkett, Lord Shipley and Lord Kennedy, referred to One Yorkshire. In recognition of the ambitions for closer collaboration across Yorkshire, reflecting the Yorkshire brand and its cultural heritage, the Government have recently provided £200,000 to support the establishment of a Yorkshire leaders board, as a practical step for facilitating greater collaboration on a Yorkshire-wide basis. However, the Government have consistently stated that the One Yorkshire proposal does not meet our criteria for devolution.
This order will give the mayor and combined authority the powers and funding they need to drive the city region’s economic recovery and renewal. It has the potential to transform the life chances of people across South Yorkshire and I commend it to the House.