Chesterfield Borough Council is to apply to join a devolution deal with Sheffield City Region that could bring millions of pounds and hundreds of job opportunities to Chesterfield and Derbyshire.
The devolution deal will see powers and funding held by ministers and civil servants in London – on issues such as housing, skills and training, business support and transport – transferred down to a local level.
At a special council meeting councillors confirmed that entering a deal will mean absolutely no changes to Chesterfield's geographical boundaries, with the town remaining firmly part of Derbyshire. Those councillors will also continue to control the running of all the services Chesterfield Borough Council is currently responsible for.
The additional devolved powers will be managed by a combined authority, which is made up of a group of councils that will be led by an elected mayor. Chesterfield is applying for an equal seat at the table of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority alongside Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster councils. This builds on the strong relationships that have already delivered significant investment in Chesterfield from the Sheffield City Region.
The decision by Chesterfield's councillors starts a process that will include a full period of public consultation – likely to be in late spring or early summer – ahead of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government making a decision, anticipated to be in the autumn.
Councillor John Burrows, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: "I'm Chesterfield born and bred. If you cut me open I would have Chesterfield written on one side and Derbyshire on the other.
"So from day one I have been very clear that this is not about us moving anywhere as some people have claimed. Chesterfield is a Derbyshire town and will always be a Derbyshire town. Changing that has never been on the agenda and it never will be.
"This decision has been about what is going to be best for our economy and will most benefit our residents and businesses.
"It's about creating jobs opportunities for young people who tell me they are desperately struggling to find work. It is about supporting the Chesterfield businesses who tell me that they want to expand but need staff with the right skills to do so.
"And it's about giving our town an equal say at a table where £900 million is being handed out over the next 30 years."
Three other Derbyshire councils – Bolsover, North East Derbyshire and Derbyshire Dales district councils – are applying to join the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority as non-constituent members. They have also decided to be full members of a similar North Midlands Combined Authority formed of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire councils, Derby City, Derbyshire County Council and three of the eight Derbyshire district and borough councils.
Chesterfield Borough Council has also decided to apply to become a non-constituent member of the North Midlands Combined Authority.
This partnership is currently negotiating with government for a devolution deal that would also see powers come down from government to be managed by a combined authority led by an elected mayor.
Councillor Burrows added: "I am in the unique position of being the only council leader to have been involved in negotiating devolution deals for both the North Midlands and Sheffield City Region areas.
"I've read every document on the subject and sat in the meetings here and in London. So I've heard every argument for and against both devolution deals and in all that time I've been looking for what is best for Chesterfield and Chesterfield alone.
"After hearing all the issues at the debate I came to a clear conclusion that this deal is in the best interests of Chesterfield. That view was shared overwhelmingly by councillors of all the three political parties represented on the council, who decided this is the deal we should put out to public consultation.
"Nobody, including me, wants to have an elected mayor. But the government has made clear there is no other game in town. What is on offer is so great that it would be reckless and gambling on the town's future to walk away and not seek any devolution powers."
A copy of the report that outlined the options to councillors at the meeting is now available to download. Paper copies can be seen at Chesterfield Town Hall.