Judge stalls Sheffield devo bid over Chesterfield row

 

The High Court has blocked the Sheffield City Region's (SCR) devolution bid - for now - over its failure to consult on the inclusion of Chesterfield in the deal.

In a judgement handed down on Wednesday (21 December) Mr Justice Ousely upheld Derbyshire County Council’s challenge to the SCR Combined Authority’s consultation on its plans for a new mayoral combined authority.

”Local
The town of Chesterfield in the county of Derbyshire

The judge ruled that the statutory consultation, required before ministers can approve the bid, was inadequate because it did not ask whether Chesterfield Borough Council should be part of the new organisation.

Derbyshire leader Cllr Anne Western said: 'The people of Chesterfield knew this consultation was unfair and misleading and this High Court judgment confirms that.

'When the county council asked the question Sheffield City Region failed to ask – whether Chesterfield should join Sheffield – more than 7,500 people responded to our online poll or filled in postcards in libraries and more than 92% opposed the plans.

'Taking action in the High Court was the last thing we wanted to do but unfortunately we were left with no other option to help us defend the right of local people to have their say on something so important.

'This is a victory for fairness and common sense and for the thousands of local people who – despite not being able to answer the question they wanted to in the official consultation – spoke up and made their views known loudly and clearly.'

Chesterfield is within Derbyshire and does not share a border with any of the authorities that would form the new mayoral authority.

The county council strongly opposes the borough council’s decision to join the devolution bid on the grounds that it would hand some of its powers, including transport powers, to the new authority.

The combined authority had planned to hold an election for a mayor in May 2017. The judgement will at the very least mean that it will have to hold a new consultation and may have to postpone the election.

A spokesperson for Sheffield City Region Combined Authority said: 'This judgement confirms that our extensive and wide-ranging consultation will not be quashed. The judgement raised the need to carry out further consultation to address the proposed governance changes in Chesterfield.

'We will now take some time to consider the judgement and our next steps. We will make further public statements once we have had the opportunity to do this.'

 

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