Chesterfield devolution deal U-turn Q&A
After Chesterfield Borough Council sensationally pulled the plug on plans for the town to join the Sheffield City Region devolution deal ,we held a Q&A with leader Tricia Gilby and this is what she had to say...
The authority announced on Tuesday it was pulling out of moves to join the devolution project which would see the government hand over power from London to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, which includes Chesterfield.
The announcement came just days after the borough said devolution was vital for the town’s future, securing thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of investment, Chesterfield Borough Council revealed it is scrapping the plan.
Council leader Tricia Gilby said she wanted to avoid an unnecessary waste of public money on a referendum over the deal called by Derbyshire County Council on Friday. To read more on the county’s referendum announcement CLICK HERE
Here are her answers to our questions on the issue..
Why have you made this decision?
Firstly, the County Council announced on Friday they were definitely going ahead with the referendum. Until that point it just appeared to be Councillor Lewis saying things on social media. Secondly, we had the General Election - which has left the government in complete disarray. I really had no confidence that the government could deliver devolution anymore. I think plans for devolution are going to be kicked into the long grass.
What changed since your statement on Friday night saying the devolution deal was so good for the town?
Derbyshire County Council issued the statement very late on Friday afternoon and we responded as quickly as we could. Like many people we were up until late dealing with the election. We were pretty astounded by the outcome it hadn’t really sunk in yet. On Friday we would have let the consultation run, but with the current government’s position I couldn’t be sure that it would make any difference. To read the statement issued by the Borough Council on Friday evening CLICK HERE
Why does the saving of the relatively small costs from not having a referendum outweigh the millions you say we’d get from devolution?
I cannot justify thousands of pounds of public money being spent on another referendum. We have had seven years of Tory austerity and it is very clear that people have had enough of it. We think the referendum could have cost between £60-£100,000. I would rather see that money spent on vulnerable people.
What will happen to the Sheffield City Region ?
I explained to the Sheffield City Region very carefully the position I was in. They are now going to consult with their councils and then announce their position.
How much money has been spent on the process so far?
That is an impossible question to answer at this stage. It has been very time consuming for officers but the work we have done resulted in £31.3million worth of investment for the Waterside, Northern Gateway and Peak Resort developments. When I took this decision I received assurances that those projects would be completely safe.
What would the SCR consultation have asked?
The consultation was going to ask the same question - and it was the top question. County council officers were involved in the process of developing the new consultation and knew that it would be posted to everyone in Chesterfield - so you can see why I was so frustrated. I could not accept that the County Council were going to spend money to duplicate what was already being done in the consultation.
Will a new vote by councillors be needed?
I don’t think any vote is necessary strictly speaking but I have always been an advocate of open government so one will be taken. Things are very volatile at the moment and I need to continue to develop the full picture and then we will make a report back to the council. People will always be encouraged to ask questions to me at council meetings.
How do you feel about the county’s behaviour over the referendum?
The decision that they made to go ahead with the vote was made behind closed doors - no one was allowed to see what was going on. Given Councillor Lewis’ continual stance that he would not meet with me what does that say about his respect for the people of Chesterfield?