VIDEO: Derbyshire issues referendum ultimatum over Chesterfield devolution plan

Photo by Roger Grayson
Photo by Roger Grayson

The leader of Derbyshire County Council has issued an ultimatum to Chesterfield Borough Council over its plans to join the Sheffield City Region.

In a Youtube video released today, Councillor Barry Lewis, confirmed plans to ask the people of Chesterfield in a referendum if they support the controversial move.

However, he has now offered to drop the proposal if Chesterfield agrees to scrap its plans to join the combined authority.

He said: “The people of Chesterfield deserve a choice. Do they or do they not want to join the Sheffield City Region and have an elected mayor?

“The strength of feeling in Chesterfield is quite clear and it is very strongly against joining the Sheffield City Region.

“The next step in this process is to hold a referendum.

The new Conservative leadership of Derbyshire County Council.

The new Conservative leadership of Derbyshire County Council.

“But before we go down that route - and incur that expense - I think Chesterfield Borough Council and the Sheffield City Region should reconsider their options.

“The referendum would only be an advisory vote but they know what the answer would be - the result would be overwhelming.

“Chesterfield Borough Council and the Sheffield City Region should very carefully consider its options at that point.”

Chesterfield councillors last year voted unanimously for the borough council to become a constituent member of the Sheffield City Region combined authority.

I think Chesterfield Borough Council and the Sheffield City Region should reconsider its options.

Councillor Barry Lewis

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

In response to Coun Lewis’ statement, a Chesterfield Borough Council spokesperson said: “Councillor Tricia Gilby, Chesterfield Borough Council’s leader, made an offer to Councillor Lewis a few weeks ago when he came into office to meet with him to discuss the issue of Chesterfield joining the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority as a full member.

“Coun Gilby has yet to receive a reply but the door remains open to Councillor Lewis to meet and discuss the issue.

“Chesterfield residents and businesses are, and will always be, part of Derbyshire. This is not in question.

Cllr Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, and deputy leader Cllr Amanda Serjeant

Cllr Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, and deputy leader Cllr Amanda Serjeant

“Devolution is about getting the best deal for Chesterfield and the best deal for Derbyshire.

“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. This is expected to take place over the summer.

“We are already seeing the benefits to Chesterfield and Derbyshire of being part of Sheffield City Region with £31.3 million of funding already allocated to the Markham Vale, Waterside, Northern Gateway and Peak Resort developments. These are projects creating and supporting thousands of jobs in Derbyshire.

“We are now looking to access a share of an additional £900 million of funding over the next 30 years that is only available through the one devolution deal on offer to Chesterfield and Derbyshire

“We know from our conversations with local residents and businesses that once people understand the benefits and the fact that they will remain part of Derbyshire, the response we have received from them has been in favour of joining the Sheffield City Region devolution deal.

“There is no other possible devolution deal on offer for either Chesterfield Borough Council or Derbyshire County Council.”