Sheffield City Council ‘will fail’ without more help from business

Leigh Bramall gives his first interview since leaving Sheffield City Council to join a Sheffield PR firm. Picture: Chris Etchells
Leigh Bramall gives his first interview since leaving Sheffield City Council to join a Sheffield PR firm. Picture: Chris Etchells
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Business must step up - or a cuts-ravaged Sheffield City Council “will fail.”

The private sector needs to help fill the gap left by a shrinking authority, according to Leigh Bramall, former deputy leader and cabinet member for business.

At the same time, an organisation which once kept business at arm’s-length, needed to be more “pro-growth”.

In his first interview since joining a Sheffield PR firm, Mr Bramall said Government cuts over the next three years were set to top £100m - on top of £450m in recent years.

It meant the only way to succeed was a different attitude in the public and private sectors.

Mr Bramall, aged 42, said: “If no one in the private sector does anything to contribute then the council will fail.

“It has lost hundreds and hundreds of millions and its ability to drive business has been reduced.

“It has to prioritise and increasingly work in partnership with the private sector.”

Meanwhile there had to be a realisation “at all levels” of the council it had to be pro-growth, when historically the planning department had been criticised for being “anti-business.”

Mr Bramall said while he was at the council he had a led a project to improve efficiency. It resulted in the £60m IKEA in Attercliffe being approved, in return for the cost of work to ease congestion. Once open, it will be worth £2m-a-year in business rates.

He added: “IKEA is a classic example. A lot of work was done and there was a different attitude from all parties.”

Marketing was one area that council could increasingly ill-afford, he added.

Mr Bramall said his new employer, Counter Context, was preparing to work on city branding which everyone could use.

Business might also pool funding and expertise on projects, as had already happened with the Business Improvement District and the new Sheffield Property Association, he added.

The Government plans to axe the council’s £200m-a-year revenue support grant by 2020. Despite another proposal to let it keep 100 per cent of business rates, the ‘gap’ will be £100m, Mr Bramall said.

In contrast, Westminster, which has a tiny population, will keep billions.

Mr Bramall added: “The council has probably never been poorer. By coming together we can have more clout than before.

“We have had some successes in spite of the cuts including McLaren, Boeing, HSBC’s move, the New Era Development.”

The authority has also signed a £200m deal with Chinese firm Sichuan Guodong set to include construction projects including a possible five-star hotel.

He was involved in striking the deals as deputy leader, but he said he was confident they would continue without him.

He added: “I don’t think me not being there will make any difference. Good people are working on it who are certainly capable of making it work.”

Mr Bramall, a married dad-of-two who quit politics to spend more time with his family, said he and new boss Alexis Krachai cared deeply about Sheffield and it was the company’s intention to “step up.”

“Following the generally election, 90 per cent of the Government’s focus will be on getting Brexit right and we will have to fight even harder to get its attention.

“That increases the need for us to take destiny in our own hands.”