BREAKING: Chesterfield residents to get referendum on devolution plan

Ballot box.
Ballot box.

Derbyshire Council is to hold a referendum for Chesterfield residents on controversial plans for the devolution of powers to a regional mayor.

The referendum is being staged by the County Council, which is opposed to plans which would see Chesterfield Borough Council becoming a constituent members of a ‘combined authority’ of nine local councils.

If it went ahead, the devolution deal would give responsibility for a range of services in Chesterfield to the Sheffield City Region combined authority - and its mayor. These include major roads, funding for maintenance and road safety on all roads in the borough, public transport, travel concessions, skills for employment and major planning and investment projects.

Everyone who is over 18, living in Chesterfield and on the electoral roll will receive an official ballot paper delivered to their home address from 21 June 2017 to voice their opinion on the idea.

Leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Barry Lewis said: “It’s time to put this issue to bed once and for all.

“This is a massive decision for the future of Chesterfield and the rest of Derbyshire and many people have already said they do not want the borough to join Sheffield.

“We would rather not have to spend tax-payers’ money on holding a referendum but local people deserve the chance to have their say in an officially recognised way.

“Voting is easy. It’s a simple yes or no question. So please look out for your ballot paper dropping onto your door mat, fill it in and post it back to us straight away. Or you can vote by text, online or by phone if you prefer. Full details will be included with your ballot paper.”

The referendum will be conducted and verified by Electoral Reform Services, an independent and impartial organisation, on behalf of the county council.

Sheffield City Region carried out its own 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.

Councillor Lewis added: “We know people have already expressed their objections to these plans in various ways. But this will be the strongest indication of local feeling yet. That’s why we’re urging everyone to take part - even if you’ve already made your voice heard this is your chance to make your vote count.”

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 evidence of what local people want for their future.

People living outside Chesterfield, as well as Chesterfield residents, will be able to have their say about the plans when Sheffield City Region carries out its second public consultation due to launch in July.

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