Get competitive or forever play catch-up, chamber tells Sheffield

Richard Wright of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
Richard Wright of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
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SHEFFIELD must start competing on an international scale or risk forever playing “catch-up” with other cities, according to Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

Responding to a report published by think tank Centre for Cities which listed Sheffield as among the 25 per cent least productive UK cities, when compared with Europe, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Richard Wright described the findings as ‘no surprise’.

Mr Wright said: “Credit is due for the progress Sheffield has made in the last 20-30 years, and, in some ways, we now compare better against the other UK core cities. The problem is that this comparison is delusional in that the UK’s core cities - except perhaps London - do not stack up against Europe or the rest of the world. Until we stop judging ourselves against the rest of the UK, and start looking at what we need to do to be competitive against the rest of the world we will always be in catch-up mode.

“What I do believe is that we cannot just expect Government to close this gap. It is the responsibility of the private sector to create wealth and we do need to be better at it. We do have world class and ambitious businesses, but not enough.

“Government and public services can help with support for big projects like digital connectivity, provision of skilled employees, innovation support and connectivity but it must be world class. It must also be done efficiently and we need to guard against big bureaucratic structures in all levels of government, including LEPs.

“We also need it now and not in the 10-20 year timescales we talk about for things like HS2 and the Trans Pennine Tunnels. Is our planning service fit for the modern world? Absolutely not - it slows things down and doesn’t see itself as a service because it has no concept of a customer.

“Sheffield City Region is entering a defining period. The Devolution Deal, Brexit, and a regional mayor give us great opportunities. They also present great threats. Unless we take this money and use it radically differently, avoiding large organisations that eat overhead money, we will not make the progress we should.

“Getting the right mayor, and giving them the resources and authority to make the necessary changes, is critical in our opinion.”