Tories plan referendum for Chesterfield over controversial devolution plan

Chesterfield (Photo: Roger Grayson)
Chesterfield (Photo: Roger Grayson)

Chesterfield residents could soon be asked to vote in a referendum on the town’s membership of the Sheffield City Region.

The idea of a vote was put forward by Derbyshire’s Conservatives in the run up to last week’s county council elections.

The new Conservative leadership of Derbyshire County Council.

The new Conservative leadership of Derbyshire County Council.

Now, after winning control of County Hall last Friday, they want to press ahead with their plans - and want Chesterfield Borough Council to agree to accept the result.

In the run up to Thursday’s poll, Conservative leader, Barry Lewis, said: “It’s time to put the question hanging over Chesterfield’s future to bed.

“And it is right that Chesterfield residents should have a proper say on the issue.

“A referendum would allow local Chesterfield residents to decide whether they want to be part of a large South Yorkshire metropolitan area that has little in common with the place they live or to remain part of a unified Derbyshire - which is their real home.”

‘It’s time to put the question hanging over Chesterfield’s future to bed.’

Derbyshire County Council leader, Barry Lewis

The Conservatives said their own data revealed that 84 per cent of Chesterfield’s residents were opposed to the devolution proposals.

They added that in the same surveys, 90 per cent of people agreed that the final decision should be put to a local referendum.

John Boult, the newly elected Conservative county councillor for Walton and West, said: “I’ve said for some time that Chesterfield needs a referendum on this question.

“Many people have been in touch with me and countless others on the doorstep have said they don’t want to be forced down the Sheffield City Region route.

Chesterfield Town Hall.

Chesterfield Town Hall.

“Labour politicians have been bitterly divided on this in Derbyshire and I’m glad it is the Conservatives who are showing real leadership.”

The Borough Council voted unanimously to become a constituent member of the Sheffield City Region combined authority last year.

However, the process was halted earlier this year after the county council brought - and won - legal action against the body over the way it had conducted its consultation.

Huw Bowen, chief executive of the borough council, said: “Sheffield City Region has already agreed to re-run a full public consultation which directly addresses issues around Chesterfield Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council’s membership and the county council has been invited to engage in this process.

Conservative John Boult who took the Walton (Chesterfield) seat from the Lib Dems.

Conservative John Boult who took the Walton (Chesterfield) seat from the Lib Dems.

“It is encouraging to hear the new leader of Derbyshire County Council saying he wants to work with district and borough councils.

“As part of this we would encourage Councillor Lewis to have an early conversation with our new leader Councillor Tricia Gilby and Sheffield City Region to achieve a better understanding of the opportunities on offer to Derbyshire County Council and Derbyshire residents and businesses.

“Devolution is a complex matter and any future consultation should first seek to properly inform residents and businesses about what it means for them.

“We know from the many conversations we’ve had with residents and businesses that once people understand the reality of what is actually being proposed they take a supportive view of the benefits of the devolution deal.”

Huw Bowen, Chesterfield Council chief executive.

Huw Bowen, Chesterfield Council chief executive.