ELECTION: Sheffield needs to show the new Government it can deliver

"The election is over and overnight Sheffield and London have developed something in common - they are both Labour strongholds although I suspect that is where any comparison ends, writes Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

By David Walsh
Friday, 13th December 2019, 1:55 pm
Executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Richard Wright.
Executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Richard Wright.

"London has great rail connectivity - Sheffield doesn't. London has a sophisticated and developed devolution system - Sheffield doesn't (but it could have!). London has international significance - in reality Sheffield's is in danger of lessening.

"For the next five years we are reliant on a strong Conservative government to help us reverse some of these trends. The emphasis is on the word help - we have to be the real leaders in this and show Government we have the ambition, drive, plans and resolve to deliver the potential this city and region really does have.

"Business has suffered massively for two years now because of the uncertainty Brexit has caused. Whether we agree with Brexit or not we need the new Government to show leadership and direction - and most importantly to deliver. Lets get the divorce agreement through and get on with the trade deal which is what will really define our future relationship with Europe.

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"The divorce agreement with a decent trade deal is something we can work with but without one it could well be an unmitigated disaster. Its not just about trade tariffs either but also the complexity of doing business - things like documentation, physical customs checks, free movement of critical labour and definition of the origin of goods made in the UK (will they still be classed as European?).

"Even if we get an acceptable deal, Sheffield needs a level playing field against all the other city regions it is competing with for things like inward investment and government funding.

"I will be looking for investment in three specific areas in the Queens speech. Firstly infrastructure - it would be a disaster if some of HS2 is built but not the Eastern leg to Leeds via Sheffield.

“Secondly education - we are doing a good job developing vocational-based education routes of equal parity to the more traditional academic routes here in Sheffield but there is much more to do. Thirdly, research and development so we continue to identify new ideas and technology which business can pick up and use and create wealth and jobs which in reality are our core responsibilities.

"On top of all of these there are two things which I believe are already national (and international) challenges but which we must solve. Business cannot be passive in this.

"The first is climate change. In my opinion every business and every household must become an exemplar of low carbon because the legacy we are leaving our children is frightening.

"The second are our social divisions. You can almost draw a line through this city and on one side life is good but on the other its much more of a challenge and where life expectancy and educational achievement are much lower. Quite apart from the moral reason for addressing this there is a good economic one. In general terms these regions hold back our productivity and competitiveness. To be successful in this international world 100 per cent of all the people in this city need to be pulling in the same direction.

"It’s not too late to be doing something about these things. A majority of people in this city did not get the Government they wanted but the city needs to put that behind it and work with them to fulfil our potential."