A few weeks ago, Andy Street, the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, stood outside Channel 4’s London headquarters and campaigned for the organisation to move to Birmingham. Just recently, I stood in the same spot and campaigned for Channel 4 – and the seven thousand jobs that come with it – to move instead to Sheffield. It’s only a matter of time till other mayors do the same.
And as a former Shadow Minister for the Creative Industries I know, if Sheffield is to win this, it needs a politician used to dealing with the Department for Culture Media and Sport and able to persuade them, and Channel 4, that they have the vision to make the relocation work.
If elected Mayor, the first part of my plan would be the establishment of a Digital Inclusion Taskforce, tasked with ensuring that every home and business across the Sheffield City Region has access to superfast broadband.
This would pave the way for the development of Sheffield as a regional hub for Creative and Digital Industries.
Such policies would also prepare Sheffield for the arrival of Channel 4, whose relocation – coupled with the establishment of a National Screen Institute backed by Sheffield Hallam University – would bring our digital sector and creative industries together and serve as a catalyst for a new wave of regeneration and industrial transformation.
This would ensure ‘Made in Sheffield’ is as much a mark of excellence in the Age of Information as it was in the Age of Steel. But industry and infrastructure are nothing without the right workforce.
That’s why as mayor I would make certain that complementing this digital industrial strategy are plans for working people to have the skills and training they need not just to survive, but to thrive.
To accompany this skills agenda I would also develop a Sheffield City Region Employers’ Charter which sets out basic standards for ethical business.
All these measures together would mean that, unlike this government, my economic strategy would not just be a race to the bottom, but would enable Sheffield to both seize the type of opportunity that the relocation of Channel 4 presents, and spread the benefits of the relocation as fairly as possible.
With the right powers, strategy and investment, the Sheffield City Region can harness its enormous potential and become a truly progressive and successful economy.