About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Sheffield City Region Devolution - The Brexit Impact

On Monday 27th June 2016 I attended the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (SCRCA) to hear the answer to a series of questions I put to them about the impact of the Referendum result.

The reason I was putting questions at this early stage was to see what the impact of the decision would be on current City Region projects and on the whole 'devolution' process for the region.

These are the questions I asked.

Urgent Questions to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Meeting 27th June 2016
Q1 How much of the SCRCA and LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) funding is directly related to EU membership? (value & percentage please)
Q2 What will be the impact of the referendum result on the SCRCA's Strategic Economic Plan (SEP)?
Q3 What will happen to the EU funded business support services?
Q4 What will be the impact on 14-19 year olds on the Employment Support Fund (ESF) support programmes?
Q5 Does the SCRCA expect agreed funding to now be frozen during exit negotiations?
Q6 Does the SCRCA expect 2014-2020 funding already spent to be clawed back?
Q7 How does the referendum result affect the draft scheme papers being considered by this meeting and should these proposals be delayed until the impact is fully appreciated?
Q8 Where does this leave the whole devolution process if the SCRCA are to be underfunded and unable to meet their growth commitments?
Q9 Was any of this discussed with Government ministers before the referendum and if so what was their response?

I admit my questions were given at short notice, over the weekend, but I was hoping that some of the matters in the questions would have been considered before the referendum took place. It certainly was by some as Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) held a series of round table discussions on the subject, one of which was in Sheffield and at which City Council and City region leaders were allegedly present.

I was therefore somewhat surprised to be informed by the Chair of the SCRCA, Sir Steve Houghton, (Leader of Barnsley Council) that none of this information was immediately available and some of the impacts would only come out over several months. I understand the comments on the impacts being slow to emerge but am more than somewhat shocked that they were unable to give a figure on the amount of EU investment we receive in the region. Surely this was information they used in their campaigning during the referendum.

At that point I suggested that I thought they would be able to at least answer question 9. The Chair had to check what that question was, (had he not read them before the non-answer I was given?) and then responded that, since the result they'd had discussions with Civil Servants about the devolution process and were advised by them to assume everything would carry on.

That was that. The meeting went on to rubber stamp the rest of the agenda items, setting the stage for the new devolution and the City Region Mayor, with barely a comment from any of the political leadership in attendance.

The responses or lack of them indicate to me a level of complacency within the City Region leadership about the referendum itself, the potential for a 'Leave' result and an almost negligent approach to their forward planning. What sort of organisation fails to consider all the potential outcomes of such an historical vote?

The Region and it would seem the Authority meant to be in charge of it are now floundering in the dark and for who knows how long? To carry on putting time and money into a project with such an uncertain future would seem to me to be the height of folly.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry I wasn't at the meeting Nigel as I'm curgently off work. I think you are being a little naughty expecting answers to questions that are imponderables for the whole economy at the moment. In simple terms though the devo deal is not EU money - but what no one knows yet is what effect Brexit will have on public finances. In that context having monies agreed and devolved seems better to me than waiting. I'm sure someone will look at yur questions in more detail as soon as possible