Sheffield’s battle to keep its good name

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Sheffield’s name is coming under threat from the Government as part of its bid to slash red tape.

But, Master Cutler Neil MacDonald is confident that the city and its manufacturers can resist the bid to abolish the centuries old protection.

The challenge to regulations protecting the abuse of Sheffield’s name is part of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills’ “Red Tape Challenge.”

It follows a failed attempt by BIS two years ago to abolish hallmarking – one of the oldest forms of consumer protection – which was successfully fought off by UK Assay Offices, with the Sheffield office in the lead.

Sheffield secured protection for its name in the 19th Century when some foreign cutlers began marking their products “Sheffield” in a bid to capitalise on the city’s reputation for quality products.

German manufacturers were even reported to have put the Sheffield name on their poorest quality products in a bid to undermine that reputation.

Currently, the Cutlers Company controls the use of the word “Sheffield” in company names on behalf of the Business Secretary. But, now Business Secretary Vince Cable’s department is suggesting Sheffield’s name should be removed from the protected list.

The Cutlers’ Company, which holds its 377th Cutlers’ Feast tonight, with Sheffield-born Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe as its principal guest, says hundreds of applications are made to use Sheffield in business names each year.

The vast majority get the go-ahead within 48 hours, with a few being rejected because the company has no links to the city.

The company has told BIS that its rapid response times mean the regulation isn’t a burden, the fact that there are companies still trying to misuse the city’s name means it is still needed and that the Red Tape Challenge should address more urgent issues.

The company is calling on the city’s MPs to support the continuation of control over the use of Sheffield’s name, and has high hopes that the Government will rapidly accept that view.

“If we let the protection go, we will never get it back again,” warned Master Cutler Neil MacDonald.

“All the local MPs are very supportive. Getting approval to use Sheffield in a company name is a very easy process, but it is an important quality control mechanism. We hope that BIS will see sense,” he added.

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