Sheffield Chamber of Commerce calls for ‘brave approach’ to devolution

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber.
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber.
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Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the progress of Sheffield City Region’s devolution proposals, but warned that a new approach is needed for them to succeed.

The region’s political and business leaders submitted a set of proposals to Chancellor George Osborne earlier this month calling for more powers to be devolved to the region in a bid to boost jobs, housing and infrastructure.

Richard Wright, executive director of the chamber, said: “We welcome the thrust of devolution, but only if Sheffield City Region is brave enough to do things differently. We should expect that we can make better local decisions about how we spend money to deliver best economic return, as opposed to it being given via national programmes.

“However, we will have to do things differently and take a more dynamic and entrepreneurial approach to how we spend the money. We can’t be locked in to, and hampered by, processes in the way we have previously.”

He added: “Neither do we object in principle to an elected mayor - providing it leads to rationalisation of support services across the region and the driving out of the cost of management. There are certainly some rationalisations and synergies to achieve.

“My experience in business in the 80s and 90s - when manufacturing had to absorb some massive internationally-driven challenges - was that you had to implement some big changes.

“That in turn meant you did things fundamentally differently. Those who didn’t embrace the change didn’t survive. Look at the pressure on further education, for instance. If further education is being asked to look to take on a broader, more regional approach, why not local government, too?”