Sheffield ‘won’t bury its head in sand’

Lord David Blunkett.
Lord David Blunkett.
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The city of Sheffield must embrace its ‘uniqueness’ in order to attract global business and boost its economy, according to an annual report setting out its strengths and weaknesses.

This year’s State of Sheffield report warns that city leaders must co-operate inwardly and with regional partners in order to grow in 2017.

In its annual analysis of the city’s strengths and weaknesses, released today, the report highlights the need to tackle continuing inequality, improve education, and support both younger and older people.

While celebrating the success of The Outdoor City brand, the report sets a target of getting more people cycling and walking in Sheffield, and makes improving air quality a priority, says the report, which outlines a desire to get more people engaged in city politics and democracy.

The report is drawn up by the Sheffield City Partnership Board, made up of leaders from the private, public, voluntary and community, faith and academic sectors. Chairman Lord David Blunkett said Sheffield was the only UK city to conduct such an ‘authentic and objective analysis of itself’.

He added: “There is a lot to celebrate here, as well as clear areas to work on. But the great thing about this city is that it is endeavouring to avoid the danger of burying its head in the sand. Where there are issues, the Sheffield way is to tackle these head on. This report will inform policy makers and agencies throughout the city, as well as helping people that live, work, study and play in Sheffield to understand their city better.

“The lesson both past and present is that despite the enormity of the problems we face, it is possible to make real improvement if we work together. Not just joined up thinking but practical action to achieve change.”

Sheffield’s economy is once again described as ‘resilient’, as it was in 2016, with the report highlighting growth in the advanced manufacturing sector, which has been a city priority for some time.

There is also growth in the creative and digital industries, which have ‘significant potential’ to bring good jobs to the city.

Sheffield is starting to embrace its unique selling points, such as the ‘City of Makers’ tag. And the city is exploring international links, as shown by the council’s 60-year partnership with Sichuan Guodong Construction Group.

The report suggests ‘uniqueness counts’ in a global economy, and Sheffield will benefit from shouting about the things that set it apart. The Outdoor City brand is an example of this.

But key for 2017, according to the report, is for Sheffield to work as one. An ‘inclusive growth strategy’ is being developed this year, linking with the Sheffield City Region. “Crucially, to help deliver its economic potential, the city must come together to develop a vision for sustainable and equitable growth, which can deliver greater prosperity to more of Sheffield’s residents,” it says.

Sheffield people are living in ‘challenging’ times and many deal with inequality and uncertainty daily, the report says, with too many children growing up in poverty.

The report points to the ‘Our Fair City’ campaign as an example of people working to tackle these challenges, but accepts that more work is needed.

This year a refreshed ‘Community Cohesion Framework’ will launch, based on the premise that Sheffield people should ‘all feel that they are a value part of this city regardless of how old they are, how long they have lived in the city, what they believe or what their background is.