Chesterfield snubs chance to join Sheffield City Region

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Chesterfield Borough Council has chosen not to join the Sheffield City Region after an often bitter battle between Derbyshire County Council and the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.

Earlier this week a referendum was held asking local residents whether they wanted to become part of Sheffield City Region and have some key decisions made by a Sheffield City Region Mayor.

The referendum was staged by Derbyshire County Council which was opposed to Sheffield City Region Combined Authority’s proposed expansion into Chesterfield – which would mean powers for key services in the town being handed to a Sheffield City Region Mayor.

Sheffield City Region carried out a public consultation about the plans last year but the High Court ruled the consultation was unlawful because it didn’t ask people a direct question about whether or not they believed Chesterfield should become part of Sheffield City Region.

Leader of Derbyshire County Council, councillor Barry Lewis, said: “This is absolutely the right decision by Chesterfield Borough Council and a victory for common sense.

“Obviously we would rather not have to spend tax-payers’ money on holding a referendum. But with so many people clearly not in favour of Chesterfield joining Sheffield City Region it was only fair and proper that residents were given the chance to have their say and give a clear indication of what they wanted for the future of their town and borough.

“The county council never believed the proposals were in the best interests of Chesterfield which would have had to compete against all the councils within the Sheffield City Region for funding from the Sheffield City Region Mayor.

“If the plans had gone ahead there would have been untold costs to Derbyshire’s tax-payers in delivering services in two separate ways – one way for Chesterfield and another for the rest of the county – and making sure they ran seamlessly alongside each other.

“We can now look ahead and concentrate on continuing to deliver services for Chesterfield and the rest of Derbyshire – the county to which the borough truly belongs.

“Chesterfield’s decision opens up new opportunities for working in partnership and I look forward to discussing with Councillor Gilby how the county and borough council can work together in the future.”

A statement from Sir Nigel Knowles, the chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, read: “The decision whilst entirely understandable is disappointing. The ability for our locally elected leaders to work across traditional administrative and county boundaries is critical on big issues such as public transport, skills investment and infrastructure. There is no doubt that this decision makes it a little harder to do this.

“Both public and private sector members are now consulting with colleagues to agree the next steps on the city region’s devolution deal. These are important decisions with long-lasting impact. It’s important our politicians get it right and have the time in which to do so.

“The private sector LEP board members are absolutely committed to working with local politicians to deliver the devolution of powers and resources to local areas.

“Whatever happens, Chesterfield remains a critically important part of our strong public-private partnership. I am delighted that Tricia Gilby, the new Leader of Chesterfield has become the vice-chair of the city regions Combined Authority. This is a powerful statement of our politicians’ collective will to work together.”

Results from advisory referendums are not binding and the final decision whether to allow Chesterfield to join Sheffield City Region will rest with the Secretary of State. But the results will be sent to the Government, Sheffield City Region and Chesterfield Borough Council as clear evidence of what local people want for their future.

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