The district’s four councils and Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis, who is also Barnsley Central MP, agreed on a way forward and received backing from Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Sheffield and Rotherham have wanted a full South Yorkshire devolution deal to be implemented, but Barnsley and Doncaster want the group to be amalgamated into a ‘One Yorkshire’ region, encompassing a much wider area.
However, while Barnsley remains committed to the ultimate Yorkshire-wide goal, the stand-off was ended when all local authority leaders agreed the ‘interim’ South Yorkshire devolution.
A statement issued jointly by Mayor Jarvis, Sheffield’s Julie Dore, Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, Rotherham’s Chris Read and Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said all parties were pleased and hailed the news - revealed on Wednesday - as a ‘significant step forward’.
“We’re pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed he will be working with us to progress devolution,” it added.
“Subject to the devolution deal being advanced to a positive conclusion, he has also agreed to progress discussions on the role and functions of a committee of leaders from across Yorkshire, based on the existing Yorkshire Leaders’ Board.
“All South Yorkshire councils will have the opportunity to join any full Yorkshire devolution arrangement if they choose to.
“We will be considering a paper at the Mayoral Combined Authority meeting on January 27 and, subject to final agreement at that meeting, we will be launching a public consultation on the proposals.
“This represents a significant step forward in securing additional powers and resources for our region.”
An independent economic study has shown a One Yorkshire devolution deal could deliver economic benefits worth £30bn a year, or £5,400 per person locally.
In April last year, a letter was sent by Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham leaders asking for devolved powers to be unlocked in the region.
It said: “We are all clear that we should and will actively support each other in the achievement of our individual devolution ambitions.
“Each council has the right to make its own choices about its devolution arrangements, including the right to join, or not to join a wider Yorkshire grouping from the outset if that is what individual places wish to do.”
The letter contained the requirement that it did not rule out Barnsley and Doncaster joining a Yorkshire-wide devolution arrangement later.
This feature remains and it’s something Barnsley Council will attempt to secure in the future, but Sir Steve told the Chronicle that it must be done in phases.
He added: “We previously had nothing but now we’ve got something and it’s a better deal. It’s a positive step, there’s no doubt about that, as something has finally been achieved devolution-wise.
“Leaders met last Friday to discuss the deal but the Yorkshire-wide part will be done in a stepped approach - it is something we do still want - but we must move towards that in stages.
“Leaders were unanimous in reiterating their desire to secure a Yorkshire devolution deal.
“Following discussions with other South Yorkshire leaders, its councils will now consult on the proposed South Yorkshire deal but also continue to work with other Yorkshire councils to secure their own interim funding arrangements.
“However long our involvement lasts in the South Yorkshire deal, it allows us to access our share of £30m per year. I must emphasise that Barnsley still ultimately wants the One Yorkshire deal.”