In June 2020, parliament approved a ‘devolution deal’ that led to the transfer of certain powers and funding from Westminster to South Yorkshire’s directly elected ‘metro mayor’ and combined authority. 10 BBC, ‘South Yorkshire devolution deal set for approval’, BBC, 29 June 2020, retrieved 30 March 2022, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-53218563
The combined authority was originally known as the ‘Sheffield City Region Combined Authority’, but was renamed the ‘South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’ (SYMCA) in 2021.
What is the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority?
The combined authority was established as a legal entity in April 2014 and has four constituent councils: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. As a combined authority, it gained the ability to take certain collective decisions across council boundaries.
Following its creation, agreement on a devolution deal for the area was reached between its four constituent local authorities and the UK government in October 2015. This led to the adoption of a directly elected mayor and subsequent mayoral election in May 2018.
Although political leaders agreed the deal in October 2015, parliament did not approve the devolution of powers and funding until June 2020. The process was delayed as Barnsley and Doncaster initially voted for a wider ‘One Yorkshire’ deal, rather than just a South Yorkshire one. 11 Perraudin F, ‘Barnsley and Doncaster vote for ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution deal’, The Guardian, 21 December 2017, retrieved 11 April 2022, www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/21/barnsley-and-doncaster-vote-for-one-yorkshire-devolution-deal
Five local authorities are non-constituent members of the combined authority: Bassetlaw, Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire, Derbyshire Dales and Bolsover. These members only have voting rights on certain issues relating to the wider region when constituent members resolve to give them a vote on these matters at the start of a SYMCA meeting.
The Labour Party is the dominant political party in the region, controlling three of the four constituent councils. Sheffield currently has no overall control after Labour lost its majority at the 2021 local election. 12 BBC, ‘Election 2021: Sheffield City Council moves to no overall control as leader ousted’, BBC, 8 May 2021, retrieved 30 March 2022, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-57024385
The total population of the area covered by the constituent local authorities of the SYMCA is 1.4m. The area covered by the both the constituent and non-constituent local authorities has a population of 1.9m.
Who is the mayor of South Yorkshire?
Following the May 2022 election, the new mayor of South Yorkshire is Oliver Coppard (Labour), who received 43% of first-preference votes. He represents the Labour Party and succeeds Dan Jarvis (Labour), who did not stand for re-election and will instead return to being a full-time MP for Barnsley Central.
The election used the supplementary vote system. Since no candidate won over 50% in the first round, the top two candidates proceeded to a second round, with second preferences redistributed from eliminated candidates. These two candidates were Oliver Coppard (Labour) and Clive Watkinson (Conservatives). After the second round, Coppard won 71% of the vote.
Overall turnout at the mayoral election was 26.4%, but this varied substantially between the constituent councils. The lowest turnout, 19.9%, was in Doncaster, whilst Sheffield recorded the highest turnout, at 32.4%
The SYMCA can apply a council tax precept, but does not currently do so. In addition to the transport levy, in 2020/21 the combined authority received £1.13m in business rates income and £1.18m in local enterprise zone subscriptions from its constituent authorities. By contrast, the constituent authorities receive 30–40% of their income from council tax and business rates.
How does the SYMCA compare to the rest of the UK in terms of social and economic outcomes?
South Yorkshire performs comparatively poorly on many key social and economic metrics. In terms of labour productivity (GVA per hour) and gross household income, the region is about 20% below the UK average. In terms of social mobility, it is even further behind (71%).
The region is close to the UK average in terms of the skills of its population, although there is substantial variation between the region on this indicator. The region is also more dependent on cars, reflecting the lower-than-average use of public transport to get to work, other than in Sheffield.
How does the SYMCA area overlap with other administrative boundaries?
Unlike some other mayoral combined authority regions, the geography of the SYMCA is generally coterminous with other administrative boundaries. For example, the SYMCA is coterminous with the South Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which was created in 2012. Until 2020, the LEP geography covered a wider region which included the non-constituent councils of the SYMCA, however the UK government changed these boundaries in 2020.
The SYMCA area is coterminous with a single police force area: South Yorkshire Police. Unlike in some other city-regions, the mayor of South Yorkshire does not also hold the position of police and crime commissioner.
The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) covers the area of the SYMCA’s constituent local authorities, as well as the local authority of Bassetlaw, a non-constituent council of the SYMCA. STPs bring together local authorities and NHS organisations to facilitate the development of ‘place-based’ approaches to the delivery of NHS services in given regions.