Chesterfield Borough Council’s decision to seek full membership of Sheffield City Regionhas captured the attention of local people. And rightly so – it would mean a huge change to local government in Derbyshire with some key services in Chesterfield, for example road maintenance and public transport, no longer provided by Derbyshire County Council.
Let me be clear, we’re not opposed to change. England is the most centralised country in Europe and more decisions could and should be made locally.
That’s why we’re working on a deal with other councils in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – including North East Derbyshire District and Bolsover District Councils – to get a devolution deal from central government for the North Midlands.
I firmly believe that Chesterfield would benefit more from being in the North Midlands deal because the Chesterfield economy is part of a wider North Derbyshire economy and the links to South Yorkshire as not as strong as you might think.
Most Chesterfield people live and work within the borough. Of those who travel out of town to work, three times as many go to other parts of Derbyshire than go to Sheffield.
All the councils surrounding Chesterfield have decided not to become full members of Sheffield City Region but to stay with the North Midlands grouping. It makes no sense for Chesterfield to do the opposite.
My fear is that this is the thin end of the wedge. The Government is considering plans to break up the traditional counties of England, such as Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Kent. Could Derbyshire be next for the chop? The Conservatives at County Hall are already promoting this idea.
Very few people in Chesterfield knew about this decision until the last minute. We decided to publish information about the plans and what it could mean because it’s such an important decision and we believe people have a right to know.
Our online poll sums up the strength of local feeling. Of the 2,839 votes cast, 2,561 (90%) said they were against Chesterfield joining Sheffield City Region.
The final decision whether to make Chesterfield a full member of Sheffield City Region lies with the Government and as part of the process there is expected to be a public consultation on the issue in the summer. As soon as we have the details we’ll let you know – because further down the line I don’t want people to say they missed the opportunity to make their feelings known.
Coun Anne Western
Leader of Derbyshire County Council