Independent inquiry launched into city’s deep social divisions

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MORE than 50,000 households in Sheffield are now living in poverty, and the gap between the richest and poorest people in the city has increased.

These findings are set to be the focus of a new independent commission, which has been established by Sheffield Council to investigate the causes and impact of inequalities in the city.

Official statistics show that some parts of Sheffield have become more deprived in the last three years, while inequalities between different groups of people are also a pressing problem.

Studies show that women living in the city are more likely to be unemployed than men, while more black people feel unsafe when out in their neighbourhoods after dark, compared with white British people.

Leader of Sheffield Council, Coun Julie Dore, said yesterday: “We are determined to tackle inequalities in Sheffield, but the reasons for them can be extremely complex.

“We felt the best way to investigate this would be through an independent commission that can listen to people from across the city and produce recommendations for making future improvements.”

The so-called “fairness commission” will launch a “short and focused” enquiry, taking evidence from both individuals and from organisations.

It began its work on Tuesday, February 14, by inviting people in the city to submit written evidence on the causes of poverty and inequalities, and priorities that they think the commission should consider.

The commission will also take oral evidence in public from a range of organisations, in meetings to be held across the city over the coming months.

In September this year, members of the commission will produce a report with recommendations on how Sheffield can best tackle the problems of poverty and inequalities and increase social justice.

Sheffield Council will then consider how it can “put those recommendations into action.”

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said: “The commission will be composed of invited individuals with proven knowledge and expertise on this major social and economic issue, with an independent chairman.

“Commissioners will be expected to contribute expertise rather than represent specific interests, in the spirit of making a collective contribution towards helping Sheffield to be as fair and prosperous as possible, a city in which all residents feel included. “

Chairman of the commission, Professor Alan Walker from Sheffield University, said: “It is a very great honour to be asked by the leader of the city council to serve as chair of this important inquiry.

“It is about the kind of city that we all want to live in, about Sheffield’s future.

“I am delighted to chair the commission because I believe that the potential of our great city is being held back by its deep social divisions.

“The persistent differences in life expectancy across the city are not just a tragedy for individual Sheffield residents and their families; it diminishes the whole city and all of us who live in it.”

This news comes after the “State of Sheffield” report, published last month, said the city was “strikingly spatially divided”, with only 55 per cent of residents in the north-east of the city saying they are happy with where they live.

According to the report, 81 per cent of people in Sheffield as a whole said they were happy with the area in which they live, but there is a huge divide between different areas of the city.

A total of 29 neighbourhoods – mostly those in the north and east, with the exception of Lowedges, Batemoor and Jordanthorpe in the south – are within the most 20 per cent deprived in England.

By contrast, Ecclesall is the least deprived neighbourhood and, along with Fulwood, Bents Green Crosspool, Whirlow, Abbeydale and Millhouses, are within the 10 per cent least deprived locations in England.