Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central, announced this month that he intends to stand as a Labour candidate for the Sheffield Region Mayor.
Stating “I’m putting myself forward in this election because devolution presents an opportunity to improve the lives of people living here in South Yorkshire, we’ve got many challenges at the moment -austerity, Brexit, automation, widening inequality – that we’re going to need bold and ambitious solutions to. Although not without risk, devolution gives us a chance to take greater control of our economy an infrastructure and put in place policies that grow our economy, expand opportunities for our young people, and improve our environment.Continuing, he added “I believe I’m the best person to deliver for people in South Yorkshire. Having been one of the leading figures in the devolution debate, I’m well-placed to work with local council leaders and central government to deliver the investment and public services that Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, and Doncaster need. And I want to push for a bigger devolution deal in the future, which encompasses the whole of Yorkshire because that really would give us the collective clout to cooperate with and compete with other devolution areas”.
Many people in the area voted against having a Mayor, with many not understanding what the mayor would actually be responsible for. but Jarvis says “I believe that we need a Mayor who can, in the first instance, do four things. They are:
· Negotiate the devolution of powers and funding to the Sheffield City Region – without this agreement there will be now new money or powers.
· Deliver stronger public services in South Yorkshire.
· Represent the Sheffield City Region on the national stage.
– Be a leading figure in the ongoing debate about a wider Yorkshire devolution deal”.
Jarvis says his first priority is going to be making sure we actually devolve the power and funding to the Sheffield City Region. Saying “This election is unlike any other mayoral election because the new mayor isn’t going to necessarily have any powers or money after the election. These are going to have to be negotiated and without consensus among the four council leaders, there won’t be any powers or money. So, the first item on my agenda will be building a consensus with the four local council leaders and securing that money and those powers”, he told me.
Jarvis says he intends to continue serving as MP for Barnsley, even if elected Sheffield city Region Mayor, he explains “This election isn’t like the other mayoral elections. The new mayor is going to have to leverage as much influence as possible with national government to get the powers and money that South Yorkshire needs. I am best placed to do this. If my first act as mayor were to stand down from Parliament, I’d be needlessly squandering my ability to put pressure on the Government in those important negotiations. I’ve been clear that this is not a long-term arrangement but one which is necessary to get the Sheffield City Region deal over the line and continue the negotiations into the possibility of creating a much wider Yorkshire deal.
It’s also important to remember that lots of MPs have additional responsibilities – Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, and Chairs of Select Committees. All of them put in place very clear dividing lines between their roles and I would do the same if I become the mayor. The major difference is that I won’t be taking a mayoral salary and will instead use the money to set up a community fund to tackle important local issues like tackling child poverty, helping the homeless, and improving our environment”.
There has been widespread criticism of the lack of diversity in the party, with an all white male shortlist; Dan Jarvis, Sheffield councillor Ben Curran and former Sports minister Richard Caborn. I asked Mr Jarvis why he thought no women or people from ethnic minority groups had decided to stand in the election. Jarvis told me that he completely agreed with the concerns that have been raised adding, “I tried to convince prominent potential female candidates in South Yorkshire to stand and if they had I would have stepped aside. For very understandable reasons, they decided against standing.
I want to use the position of Mayor to develop future female candidates so that we don’t see this kind of situation repeated. We also need to ask ourselves some tough questions as members of the Labour Party about the wider culture in our Party and our society which means that not enough women are coming forward for these important roles”.
Jarvis said his experience in the region and the devolution negotiations made him the ideal man to lift it out of the mire that extensive cuts from the Conservative government have left it in. Jarvis added “I’ve spent a lot of time during the devolution negotiations developing strong working relationships with local council leaders, MPs, and government ministers. Those contacts are going to be incredibly useful when it comes to building consensus among the local councils and getting the powers and money for the Sheffield City Region. And I’ve got a lot of experience of delivering projects in very difficult circumstances – both during my time in the Armed Forces and as an MP”.
Jarvis was a remain campaigner before the referendum and I asked if he had changed his mind since the vote, or if he still believes that the UK would be better in the EU.
“I’m with Jeremy Corbyn on this one” he stated “ I campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU and I think we would be better off if we were staying in. But we do have to respect the verdict of the referendum and it’s now about making sure that jobs, workers’ rights, and environmental protections are protected. I think staying in the customs union is important to doing that and I will argue in favour of that if I’m elected mayor. I believe that devolution should be viewed through the prism of Brexit. By improving economic opportunities here in South Yorkshire through smart implementation of a devolved settlement, we will be more resilient and best placed to deal with the challenges of life outside the EU”.
As an elected member of parliament for Barnsley, I asked Jarvis if he Will look at the individual cities and areas in the region separately or will do you see it as one region?
“That is an interesting question. South Yorkshire is of course a very diverse area and you only have to travel between Sheffield Hallam constituency and Barnsley Central to see that the challenges can be very different” he says, “But devolution is also about drawing together our collective energy to tackle those challenges that we all face: improving our transport system; creating more opportunities for our young people and tackling child poverty; and improving the environment and preserving our green spaces. So, I think the policies the mayor puts in place, has to take account of both of those things”.
Richard Caborn, who has since not been selected as a candidate is a Sheffield United supporter and Ben Curran a Wednesday fan, I asked Dan which of our local teams he thinks will finish highest this season, he said “Well, I can give a cast-iron guarantee that as Mayor I will be scrupulously impartial in not favouring any part of the Sheffield City Region over any other. Except in one respect; and that is that I’ll always support Barnsley FC”