A second meeting has been called by Chesterfield Borough Council to consider Chesterfield’s devolution options in a bid to prevent tax payers’ money being wasted on an unnecessary legal challenge.
The decision to hold a new meeting at 5pm on Wednesday 6 April has been made after Derbyshire County Council announced it was considering bringing a legal challenge against Chesterfield Borough Council’s decision to apply to become a full member of the Sheffield City Region devolution deal and a non-constituent member of a potential North Midlands devolution deal.
Devolution sees powers and funding on issues like skills and training, housing and transport transferred from national Government decision makers to a local level. It doesn’t have any impact on the day-to-day services provided by Chesterfield Borough Council.
The county council is threatening a judicial review unless the decision is reconsidered as it believes the report which councillors originally considered should have included what is known as an Equality Impact Assessment, which looks at the impacts of certain decisions on groups protected by anti-discrimination legislation.
Despite Chesterfield Borough Council’s report following a similar format as every other district and borough council in Derbyshire who took devolution deal decisions Derbyshire County Council has only issued the legal challenge against Chesterfield Borough Council.
No other Derbyshire council has published a full Equality Impact Assessment, including Derbyshire County Council itself - which didn’t hold a meeting in public for its councillors to recommend the combined authority it intends to apply for membership of.
Councillor John Burrows, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “The only people who benefit from judicial reviews are the barristers presenting the cases.
“We could have opposed this legal challenge but that would have cost Derbyshire’s tax payers a lot of money and wasted a huge amount of time and effort.
“So we have decided to look afresh at our 3 March decision but this time taking into account the full Equality Impact Assessment that we have now developed and other developments that have happened since the original decision was taken, including the decisions taken by other councils across Derbyshire.
“The council will then make a fresh decision on what delivers the best outcomes for both Chesterfield and Derbyshire’s residents and businesses. This will then go to public consultation before the Government makes a final decision.”
Chesterfield is being asked to choose between:
- a devolution deal already agreed with the Government for the Sheffield City Region, which would include an additional £900 million of funding to the city region over 30 years or
- a potential North Midlands deal, yet to be agreed with the Government, seeking similar powers. This would involve Nottingham City Council; Nottinghamshire County Council; six of the seven Nottinghamshire district councils; Derby City Council; Derbyshire County Council and three of the eight Derbyshire district councils (as High Peak and Amber Valley borough councils, and South Derbyshire and Erewash district councils have all decided not to be part of the potential North Midlands devolution deal).
The deals will be given to, and managed by combined authorities, which are groups of local councils in each local area. Under Government proposals these authorities would be led by an elected mayor but would only cover issues such as housing, skills and training, business support and transport. Under the plans:
- Chesterfield will definitely remain part of Derbyshire, while getting the benefits of a devolution deal to help boost Chesterfield and Derbyshire’s economies
- All existing Chesterfield Borough Council services would not be affected in any way and no other council would have a say over the way they are run.
- Derbyshire County Council services for Chesterfield residents, including education, social care and libraries, would also be unchanged, with the exception of transport.
It is anticipated that under either option the county council’s transport powers would be put under the remit of an elected mayor and combined authority with a remit well beyond the administrative geographical boundaries of Derbyshire.
As required under the Government process, local councils are asked to make a decision on where to apply before the issue goes out to public consultation, with the Government making a final decision in the autumn.
A revised report by council officers will be published publicly five working days before the meeting giving officer recommendations for councillors to consider, taking into account any comments made on the Equality Impact Assessment or other matters that have changed since the original decision was made.
Further information about the devolution options available to the council can be seen on the devolution pages of our website.
Information on the individual devolution options are available on:
the Sheffield City Region devolution website
the North Midlands devolution website