South Yorkshire County Council
South Yorkshire
Coat of arms or logo
Coat of arms of the South Yorkshire County Council
Established1 April 1974
Disbanded31 March 1986
Preceded byWest Riding of Yorkshire County Council
Succeeded by
Council Chairman
Cllr. Michael Burns, (Labour)
Last general election
Meeting place
County Hall, Kendray Street, Barnsley

The South Yorkshire County Council (SYCC) — also known as South Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council — was the top-tier local government authority for the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire from 1 April 1974 to 31 March 1986. A strategic authority, with responsibilities for roads, public transport, planning, emergency services and waste disposal, it was composed of 100 directly elected members drawn from the four metropolitan boroughs of South Yorkshire: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.[1]

Update by John Cornwell Deputy Leader SYCC 1982 -1986


South Yorkshire (Metropolitan) County Council


The short life of the South Yorkshire County Council was a busy, productive one as well as seeing its fair share of controversy. The SYCC (it never used the title Met.) was first elected in 1973 and given a year to play itself in, while establishing its staff, buildings and equipment. It boasted that, “it started life without even a paper clip”, had no existing County Hall to slot into, unlike West Yorkshire MCC at Wakefield, and to some extent had a clean sheet of paper on which to write its policies.

The election in May 1973 produced an overwhelming Labour majority (82 out of 100 Councillors) who, led by Sir Ron Ironmonger, had a radical manifesto ready to go, centred on transport, employment and improving the environment. Specifically they wanted to improve public transport, challenge the efficacy of urban motorways, clear slag heaps and rectify the disastrous environmental detritus of two centuries of heavy industry and mining. They also decided to base themselves in Barnsley, and set up their “County Hall” in newly built offices in the centre of town.

The SYCC became closely identified with a cheap bus fares policy, where, by the simple expedient of not raising bus fares at a time of rampant inflation, they soon had the cheapest fares in Britain. Yet there was more to their transport policy than just cheap adult fares. Schoolchildren could travel anywhere for 2p, pensioners travelled free, bus lanes were created, pedestrianisation of shopping precincts completed, but it was cheap fares that was singled out for attention by both supporters and opponents of the policy.

The willingness of the SYCC to defy not just a Labour Government under Jim Callaghan over cheap fares, but also a much more dangerous opponent in Mrs. Thatcher, earned it the sobriquet “the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire”, a title the Labour members wore with great pride. Although it may not have been the best slogan for attracting inward investment from British and foreign companies. However, for a while the SYCC was the toast of Labour local authorities, and many, like Ken Livingstone’s GLC, saw it as a model when considering their own urban traffic and transport problems.

In the 1977 English County Council elections, SYCC was one of only three English counties to remain Labour controlled (62% of the council) and it was seen as endorsement by the public of the cheap fares policy, as well as the other improvements the SYCC had achieved. They had encouraged new forms of policing sensitive to communities’ needs and concerns, had become responsible for all of the county’s roads, where they built many much needed by-passes and highway improvements, and successfully competed for a high percentage of the highway contracts against firms from the private sector. SYCC also brought ballet and opera to a county starved of them (the RSC performed in a hall in Wath, the Royal Ballet in a tent in Norfolk Park, Sheffield), started the planning for Super Tram, and developed, and then opened the huge Rother Valley Country Park. In the Council’s final term of office (after the 1981 Election -- Lab 82% again) it concentrated its energies on innovative forms of job creation to offset the ravages to the industry of the county, caused by the policies of the Thatcher Government.

When Mrs Thatcher defeated the Argentines in the Falklands, enabling her to win the 1983 General Election, it wasn’t just Gen. Galtieri and the Belgrano that were sunk. She now felt confident enough to turn on her “enemies” at home who included Labour local authorities, especially the GLC who she decided to abolish. She also slung the six Met. Counties (all Labour) into the sacrificial pot as well. SYCC put up a three year fight to survive but in the end the Council went out of existence on 31st March 1986.


However, there still is a South Yorkshire County; it has a Lord Lieutenant but not a county council. As a geographical concept South Yorkshire is well established, unlike the now defunct Humberside or Avon, that were also new counties in 1974, while few now remember the West Riding let alone pine for its return. Then in 2014 the Conservative Government, as part of a wider policy to create big city regions led by an elected mayor, established the Sheffield City Region with strategic planning and transportation powers as the core of its remit. The Sheffield City Region included Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield as well as some adjacent local authorities in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. This continued until 2018 when an elected mayor was finally chosen, but only by the electorate of the four South Yorkshire Districts. Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley, won that contest and the new arrangements looked even more like the return of the old County Council except that there was no council of democratically elected councillors. Instead there was an authority whose members were just the new Mayor, plus the Leaders of Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield councils and the elected Mayor of Doncaster.

In 2021 the authority was renamed the South Yorkshire Combined Mayoral Authority and former SYCC members and staff felt that the legitimacy of their work and achievements had finally been recognised and they were no longer just a footnote in history.



SYCC was constituted by the Local Government Act 1972 and elections in 1973 resulted in the county council acting as a 'shadow authority' until the authority was formally established on 1 April 1974. SYCC was abolished on 31 March 1986, just 12 years after it was established, following the Local Government Act 1985. Its powers were transferred to the four metropolitan borough councils of South Yorkshire (which had shared power with SYCC): Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and Sheffield City Council.

Political control

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority before coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council from 1973 until its abolition in 1986 was always held by the Labour Party:[2][3]

Party in control Years
Labour 1973–1986


The first leader of the council, Ron Ironmonger, had been the last leader of the old Sheffield City Council. The leaders of South Yorkshire County Council were:

Councillor Party From To
Ron Ironmonger[4] Labour 1974 1979
Roy Thwaites[5][4] Labour 1979 1986

Council elections

Year Labour Conservative Liberals Others
1973 82 13 1 4
1977 62 31 2 5
1981 82 14 3 1

Successor bodies

Following the abolition of SYCC in 1986, its administrative functions were mostly devolved to the four constituent metropolitan borough councils in South Yorkshire. In practice, many functions continued to be jointly administered by joint authorities supported by the South Yorkshire Joint Secretariat. Although the county council was abolished, South Yorkshire remains a metropolitan and ceremonial county with a Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire and a High Sheriff.

The Sheffield City Region Combined Authority was established on 1 April 2014 as the strategic top-tier authority for South Yorkshire. The combined authority exercises some functions formerly held by SYCC, with powers over transport and economic development.

See also


  1. ^ "SYCC - South Yorkshire County Council". Sheffield Archives. Sheffield City Council. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  3. ^ "British Local Election Database, 1889-2003". UK Data Service. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Days of cheap bus fares and street lamp counting". Sheffield Telegraph. 27 March 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  5. ^ "City council back 'stop cuts' fight". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 18 September 1979. p. 5. Retrieved 12 August 2022. Councillor Roy Thwaites, the leader of South Yorkshire...