THE Sheffield City Region is home to 68,000 businesses generating £30bn every year.
But, with the average weekly salary here £60 less than the UK’s average, it is clear that too few people in South Yorkshire have a decent income or get their fair share of our nation’s wealth.
Last week, I launched my bid to be the mayor of the Sheffield City Region. As part of this campaign, I released a set of policy proposals focussed on establishing a more vibrant, successful and co-operative economy in South Yorkshire.
Those plans are founded upon a three-part economic strategy: build on our strengths, invest in our future, and develop a well-paid and highly skilled workforce.
The first step on this road would be the establishment of a Digital Inclusion Taskforce, tasked with ensuring that every home and business across the Sheffield City Region has access to superfast broadband.
This would pave the way for the development of Sheffield as a regional hub for the creative and digital industries, and – by helping bridge the gap between research, innovation and commercialisation – also maximise the benefits of housing two world-class universities.
Accompanying this initiative would be the establishment of a Business and Trade Union Advisory Panel to work closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and provide industry insights and policy guidance.
Their goal would be to ensure that ‘Made in Sheffield’ continues to be a source of value and pride, and is as much a mark of excellence in the age of information as it is was in the age of steel.
But growing South Yorkshire’s economy is only part of the means by which we develop a more inclusive form of prosperity.
As a region, we must ensure that we have more well-paid jobs for both graduates and non-graduates, and that opportunities for career progression do not require people to move away.
To promote this more inclusive form of growth, I would develop a Sheffield City Region Employers’ Charter which sets out basic standards for ethical business.
This would include addressing the pay gap between men and women, guaranteeing a living wage of £8.75 per hour for all employees of the Sheffield City Region, and ensuring that public and private expenditure most benefits those businesses who create local jobs and use local supply chains.
These measures, and others, would ensure that my economic strategy, unlike the policies pursued by the Government, would not just be a race to the bottom.
Complementing these policies would be a strategy to ensure that our current and future workforce has the skills and training it needs not just to survive, but to thrive.
If elected mayor, I would join with Jeremy Corbyn, Angela Rayner (Shadow Education Secretary) and other city region mayors in campaigning against further cuts to school budgets; I would fight for a fair funding formula that doesn’t disadvantage schools in our region; and I would work with the Regional Schools Commissioner, universities and local authorities to develop locally-led ‘clusters’ for school improvement.
To enable more flexible careers, I would also work with schools, colleges and businesses to both transform careers advice and persuade the Government that the Apprenticeship Levy be used to create a dedicated investment fund for mayors to ensure high-quality vocational education.
And, to ensure that those already in work are not left behind, I would develop a long-term strategy for improving adult skills and helping those in work retrain to meet the needs of emerging sectors and technologies.
All of these measures, and others I have laid out on my website, would not only prepare the Sheffield City Region for the economic challenges it now faces, but enable it to seize the opportunities that the coming decades will bring.
I say this because I believe that with the right powers, strategy and investment, the Sheffield City Region – and in turn the rest of Yorkshire – can harness its enormous potential and become a truly progressive and successful economy.
To harness that potential, our first mayor must have the right policies, the right profile and the right personality.
That is why I am standing to be Labour’s candidate for Sheffield City Region mayor, and that is why I’m asking Labour Party members to vote for me.
Dan Jarvis is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central. He is standing to be Labour’s candidate for the Sheffield City Region Mayoralty. Full details of his policies can be found at the danjarvis.org website.