Chesterfield Borough Council’s leader has pulled the council’s devolution bid to avoid an unnecessary waste of public money on a referendum called by Derbyshire County Council’s leader Councillor Barry Lewis.
Councillor Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “The referendum plans by Councillor Lewis are completely unjustified, especially when Derbyshire County Council admits itself it still needs to find £80 million to balance its books due to Tory austerity.
“To avoid this happening I have put a stop to Chesterfield Borough Council’s application to become a full member of Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.
“Since being appointed leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Lewis has been determined to hold this costly referendum and has repeatedly refused to meet to discuss his plans despite stating that he intended to improve partnership working.”
Last week Derbyshire County Council announced its intention to hold a postal referendum of all Chesterfield borough residents over the age of 18 about whether they want the town to become part of the Sheffield City Region.
Sheffield City Region is also required to hold a public consultation into the plans. This would have meant public money being spent twice to ask the same question in a matter of weeks.
Councillor Gilby added: “There is little appetite from our residents to take part in yet another vote so soon after the local elections and the general election. What is more the general election has left the Government in complete disarray. Everyone expects that there will be a further general election in the coming year.
“The Government will be so busy trying to manage parliamentary business and the Brexit negotiations that its other policies, such as devolution, will just be kicked into the long grass. This is a further reason to halt the unnecessary expense of the referendum now.
“Throughout this process, Chesterfield Borough Council’s only interest has been to get the best deal for Chesterfield and Derbyshire while remaining part of Derbyshire - a deal which would have brought an estimated £35 million of new investment to the borough over the next five years.
“In contrast the county council seems determined to just act in its self-interest.
“So I have written to Councillor Lewis today to advise him of my decision and invite him yet again to meet with me.
“I shall be specifically asking Councillor Lewis how he intends to replace the £35 million of investment that we were in line to achieve over the next five years through the Sheffield City Region devolution deal.
“I shall also be suggesting to him that he uses the money that he had intended to spend on the public referendum on services for vulnerable people in Chesterfield instead.”
Chesterfield Borough Council decided last year to apply to become a full member of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority so that it could access the benefits of the devolution deal that was on offer.
The devolution deal would have seen extra powers come to the region which are currently controlled by the national Government in London and an extra £900 million of funding over the next 30 years.
This is in addition to £31.3 million already allocated to developments including Markham Vale, Waterside, Northern Gateway and Peak Resort.
Chesterfield Borough Council will remain a non-constituent member of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority as it has been for many years, along with North East Derbyshire District Council, Bolsover District Council and Derbyshire Dales District Council.