Chesterfield referendum over Sheffield City Region plans
People living in Chesterfield are being urged to take part in a referendum to send out a clear message about whether local residents want to become part of Sheffield City Region and have some key decisions made by a Sheffield City Region Mayor.
The referendum is being staged by Derbyshire County Council which is opposed to Sheffield City Region Combined Authority's proposed expansion into Chesterfield - which would mean powers for key services in the town being handed to a Sheffield City Region Mayor.
More than 5000 people said "No" to the plans in an online poll held by the county council last year.
And now it is holding an official vote to give residents the chance to have their say by answering a simple "yes" or "no" to show whether they support the plans.
Everyone who is over 18, living in Chesterfield and on the electoral roll will receive an official ballot paper delivered to their home address from 21 June 2017.
Leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Barry Lewis said:
"It's time to put this issue to bed once and for all.
"This is a massive decision for the future of Chesterfield and the rest of Derbyshire and many people have already said they do not want the borough to join Sheffield.
"We would rather not have to spend tax-payers' money on holding a referendum but local people deserve the chance to have their say in an officially recognised way.
"Voting is easy. It's a simple yes or no question. So please look out for your ballot paper dropping onto your door mat, fill it in and post it back to us straight away. Or you can vote by text, online or by phone if you prefer. Full details will be included with your ballot paper."
The referendum will be conducted and verified by Electoral Reform Services, an independent and impartial organisation, on behalf of the county council.
Sheffield City Region carried out a public consultation about the plans last year but the High Court ruled the consultation was unlawful because it didn't ask people a direct question about whether or not they believed Chesterfield should become part of Sheffield City Region.
Councillor Lewis added:
"We know people have already expressed their objections to these plans in various ways. But this will be the strongest indication of local feeling yet. That's why we're urging everyone to take part - even if you've already made your voice heard this is your chance to make your vote count."
Results from advisory referendums are not binding and the final decision whether to allow Chesterfield to join Sheffield City Region will rest with the Secretary of State. But the results will be sent to the Government, Sheffield City Region and Chesterfield Borough Council as clear evidence of what local people want for their future.
People living outside Chesterfield, as well as Chesterfield residents, will be able to have their say about the plans when Sheffield City Region carries out its second public consultation due to launch in July.
Reasons the county council believes people in Chesterfield and the whole of Derbyshire would be worse off if Chesterfield joined Sheffield include:
- Chesterfield is better-off than most of Sheffield and South Yorkshire which means the borough could be at the back of the queue for money from Sheffield City Region.
- The plans will break up the way services are currently delivered and make council services complicated and inefficient.
- Many council services in Chesterfield are better than those in Sheffield and South Yorkshire but this could change if these plans go ahead.
- Some decisions about Chesterfield's future would be taken by either a Sheffield City Mayor or combined authority. This means Sheffield and South Yorkshire councils would have a say on things like how much money is spent on maintaining roads in Chesterfield and funding for projects to help regenerate the borough.
- Councils in Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster together with a Sheffield City Region Mayor would each have two votes on joint decisions affecting Chesterfield's future but Chesterfield Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council would only have one vote each. The county council would be forced to join Sheffield City Region if Chesterfield became a full member.
- Chesterfield's fortunes would be tied to a 30 year plan for Sheffield City Region but the only investment outlined for the borough so far is for the first few years.
- Changes to services may be bad news for people living in other parts of Derbyshire because the Sheffield City Region Mayor may have little regard for residents in neighbouring Derbyshire districts. For example, it's possible Sheffield City Region could change bus routes in the borough and the frequency of bus services which could make these communities more isolated.
- It's a leap in the dark - no other council in the country has joined forces with a combined authority outside their county border.
- It will be the thin end of the wedge with the potential for more powers being handed down in the future giving a Sheffield City Region Mayor and combined authority responsibility for making even more decisions about Derbyshire and more influence over Derbyshire people.
- The new Sheffield City Region Mayor will levy Council tax in Chesterfield to pay for services across South Yorkshire - although at this stage it is not possible to say whether council tax will increase.