Calls for Bassetlaw to drop Sheffield City Region plans after “unlawful” High Court ruling

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Calls have been made for Bassetlaw to drop its plans to join the Sheffield city region after a public consultation on Chesterfield joining the devolution deal was rendered “unlawful” by the High Court.

Judge Mr Justice Sir Duncan Ouseley ruled the consultation failed to ask Chesterfield residents a direct question about whether or not they believed the town should become part of SCR, deeming this “unlawful and unfair”.

The Bassetlaw consultation has been slammed for the same reason – with a petition calling for a referendum gaining more than 4,500 signatures.

Councillor Alan Rhodes, Nottinghamshire County Council leader and member for Worksop north east and Carlton, has also spoken out against the plans, which he says will have a “negative impact” on the district’s prospects, services and local democracy.

Coun Mike Quigley, Bassetlaw District Council member for Retford east and Bassetlaw Conservative Association chairman, said Tory district councillors believed Bassetlaw’s consultation was a “sham”, as residents “were not consulted properly”.

But Coun Simon Greaves, district council leader, said the authority stands by its application to join the SCR, made in March 2016, as he says the move is an economic opportunity the district “should not miss out on”.

A county council spokesman confirmed the ruling does not mean Bassetlaw will not join the SCR, but it is likely a new consultation will have to be run, before a decision can be made.

Councillor Mike Quigley, Bassetlaw District Council member for Retford east and chairman of the Bassetlaw Conservative Association, said Conservative district councillors believed the Bassetlaw consultation was a ‘sham’ as residents ‘were not consulted properly’.

He said: “In March 2016, Conservative district councillors opposed a decision by Bassetlaw District Council to big to become a constituent member of the Sheffield city region. We did not believe Bassetlaw residents had been properly consulted and did not support the move.

“We actively assisted the independent Retford Action Group to gather a petition of more than 4,500 signatures calling for a referendum on the council’s decision.

“This petition was delivered to the Communities and Local Government Secretary by a delegation,

“We were outraged by a ‘consultation’ published on the Sheffield city region website in July, purporting to seek public views on formally expanding SCR to incorporate areas such as Bassetlaw and Chesterfield. 

“We argued the consultation was a sham, because it did not offer residents an option to vote directly against joining SCR.

“Derbyshire County Council clearly shared our view and took Sheffield city region to the High Court, alleging the public consultation on whether the region should expand to include Chesterfield was unlawful.

“Bassetlaw Conservatives welcome this decision and now insist Bassetlaw district Labour councillors must have a radical rethink of their plan to join SCR, instead listening to the Bassetlaw residents who elected them.”

Councillor Alan Rhodes, Nottinghamshire County Council leader, has also spoken out against the plans, which he says will have a ‘negative’ impact on the district’s economic prospects.

Councillor Alan Rhodes, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and member for Worksop north east and Carlton, said: “Our position on Bassetlaw becoming a constituent member of the Sheffield city region has been consistent and remains unchanged.

“We believe it would not be in the best interests of the people of Bassetlaw or Nottinghamshire as a whole.

“We set out our concerns with regards to the negative impact on economic prospects, public services and local democracy, both to SCR and senior government ministers.

“We also raised serious questions over the credibility and quality of the consultation, which has been the subject of the High Court challenge by Derbyshire.

“It remains to be seen to what extent the ruling impacts the government’s final decision over devolution to the Sheffield city region and its membership.

“However, regardless of the ultimate outcome, our long-standing relationship with Sheffield city region and Bassetlaw District Council remains a positive one and they will continue to be important partners in delivering the best possible services and prosperity in Bassetlaw and the county.”

But Councillor Simon Greaves, leader of Bassetlaw District Council, maintains that the Sheffiield City Region is an opportunity the district should not miss out on.

He said: “We believe Bassetlaw’s application to become a full member of the Sheffield city region is the right option for the future of the district and its economy.

“Devolution is about new jobs and business growth, science and new technology, better skills training, road and rail, and affordable housing.

“As an authority, we want to provide the best services and opportunities for our residents and businesses.

“North Nottinghamshire has huge potential for the future and areas such as the Sheffield city region, including Bassetlaw, should be allowed to determine their own future – that’s what localism is all about.

“This is an opportunity that Bassetlaw should not miss out on.

“I welcome the government’s announcement that it remains firmly committed to devolution and Bassetlaw’s right to determine its own future.

“I am also looking forward to seeing the judgement in full and working through the next stages of the process.

“Bassetlaw will always be part of Nottinghamshire.

“However, it is a great shame that there is still no prospect of a devolution deal in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

“Should this ever come to fruition, we will look forward to being non-constituent members of any deal.”