SHEFFIELD is weathering the storm as the economic gloom continues – but faces make-or-break challenges in the years to come as mounting cuts and environmental change take their toll, according to a new report.
The paper, called the State of Sheffield 2013, says while employment levels are stable and that school performance has improved markedly, the city is ‘on the cusp of change’ as financial pressures hit more residents.
The report calls on businesses, Sheffield Council, faith leaders, academics and the voluntary sector to find ‘new solutions’ to meet the challenges the city faces.
Coun Julie Dore, council leader and chairman of the Sheffield Executive Board which commissioned the report, said the document showed Sheffield is ‘holding up well’.
She said: “There are significant improvements in some key areas.
“We should celebrate the fact many of our children are gaining better qualifications and skills. The 2012 academic results from schools and sixth-form colleges demonstrate real success.
“Alongside this, the skills of adults in this city continue to improve and develop. These two factors are important in regard to another achievement – employment levels in Sheffield have remained stable and we are not experiencing the levels of unemployment that many other cities are.
“This shows me how talented and resilient the people of Sheffield are and how determined they are to do the best they can in difficult economic times.”
However, John Mothersole, council chief executive, warned the full impact on cuts to public services has yet to be felt.
He said: “If we don’t come through it unscathed then the city won’t as well.
“The pressure is relentless and remorseless, but it’s driving innovation. The public sector is still delivering for the city, and while crime should go up in tough times, it hasn’t in Sheffield.
“We’re working with the health sector to work out how money is spent and education is performing well.
“We’re in literally unprecedented times. People should prepare themselves for things to be different. If that acceptance is not there, then it will be a downward negative trend.”
The report, written by Prof Gordon Dabinett, a professor for regional studies at Sheffield University, highlights unemployment and inequality as two key issues, as well as air quality in the city.
Residents are too reliant on their cars and deprivation is above the national average, with about 58,500 living in poverty.
Toby Hyam, managing director of Creative Space Management, which provides work premises for up-and-coming firms, said there should be more opportunities for sole traders, but said Sheffield remains attractive to big-name companies because of its research expertise.
Mr Mothersole said investment is continuing in public transport and bus use is on the rise. Developments such as a new park and ride at Dore train station will encourage more to use greener forms of transport in car-dependent areas, he added.
The paper is the second annual report of its kind to be published.