Council shake-up to make Sheffield soar

Head of City Growth Ed Highfield outside 3 St Paul's, a new block the city council underwrote and which sold recently for �24million
Head of City Growth Ed Highfield outside 3 St Paul's, a new block the city council underwrote and which sold recently for �24million
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A key part of Sheffield City Council is claiming to be more business friendly than ever after a major shake up to boost the economy and offset swingeing Government cuts.

The new department for City Growth is a 350-strong organisation aiming to foster more firms paying business rates, employing more people living in more homes and paying more council tax.

After a months-long reorganisation it now encompasses the business, planning, transport and property departments which are all “pulling in the same direction,” according to boss Ed Highfield.

It comes as the Government plans to axe a council grant worth £200m-a-year in 2020.

Mr Highfield said it meant growth was now vital.

He added: “There’s no getting away from the fact that the Revenue Support Grant will never come back. But business rates alone will not offset austerity, we need a growing economy.

“Now we are pro-business and pro-growth, with everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Approving plans for Boeing’s first factory in Europe in five weeks showed they meant business, he added.

Office take-up in the city centre was “incredibly strong” and the sale of 3 St Paul’s, a new block the council had underwritten, was a boost. Meanwhile the authority was making a success of big projects including the Olympic Legacy Park and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, with Rotherham.

The £22.5m redevelopment of the Ski Village into an extreme sports centre would be the “jewel in the crown of the Outdoor City” and the Channel 4 bid “was credible,” he added.

But he acknowledged that growth “came with consequences” and that not everyone agreed with major planning applications. Business and housing developments could have a major impact on traffic and air quality. But tackling them needed cash - which the council now had to find.

He added: “We need an economy that produces more and costs less. I think there’s a confidence and momentum in Sheffield at the moment. I want to see it continue.”