A GLOOMY picture of rising unemployment, poverty, health problems and disenchantment with politicians is painted in a new report which outlines the challenges facing Sheffield’s city leaders in the years ahead.
But there are also some bright spots in the document – The State of Sheffield – including falling crime figures, improving life expectancy, and four in five people surveyed saying they were “satisfied” with their neighbourhood.
According to Sheffield Council, residents’ lives are getting better but “there are still challenges to overcome”.
One of the biggest issues is dealing with predicted population growth from 549,000 last year to 600,900 by 2020. The city’s population was just 517,000 in 2001.
The numbers of over 60s, who place a greater demand on social and care services, will increase by 65 per cent.
The city’s economy was growing before the recession with weekly wages increasing from £354 in 2000 to £458 in 2009, but the level was still below the national average of £495.20 in 2009.
The downturn saw unemployment almost double from 2.5 per cent to 4.8 per cent between 2008 and 2010.
Recent employment growth has relied on the public sector but, due to cuts to public spending, that growth is likely to stop. Sheffield still has a large manufacturing sector among the highest of England’s cities, but it is declining.
A large number of people in Sheffield have high levels of education – but there is also a significant proportion who are unskilled – and Sheffield has a “relatively low number” of business start-ups.
But, where new businesses have been established, the proportion surviving for more than a year is 95.7 per cent, compared with 95.5 per cent nationally.
Sheffield Council leader Coun Paul Scriven said: “We still need to do more to make sure all areas of the city are improved.”
Part of the challenge to politicians is that 72 per cent of people surveyed did not feel they had influence over decision-making – although, when asked whether they would like to be more involved, only 27 per cent said they would.
Health problems include 18 per cent of 10- and 11-year-old children being obese, while more than a fifth of children are deemed to live in poverty, with 21 per cent being in homes receiving council tax or housing benefit.
However, 51 per cent of primary school pupils and 55 per cent of secondary pupils eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
But children in Sheffield appear to be less emotionally healthy than is the case nationally, with 12 per cent of secondary pupils saying they feel very sad or depressed most days.
There is a higher proportion of children using alcohol and drugs in Sheffield than nationally, and teenage pregnancy rates continue to be higher than the national average. Bullying and safety are issues raised by children and young people, with 48 per cent of secondary pupils reporting being bullied and 57 per cent of primary pupils worrying about guns and knives.
Poverty is a continuing problem, with 55,000 households surviving on an income of under £15,000 and up to 30,000 adults being forced to use doorstep lenders who charge high interest after being refused credit with banks.
Average life expectancy is now 80 – but there is a big difference of up to 10 years between some neighbourhoods.
Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield director of public health, said: “We have made good progress but there is still an enormous amount of preventable ill health in Sheffield that we must strive to reduce – obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, and smoking must be addressed.”
Crime figures have fallen in the last five years, with a quarter as many burglaries, vehicle crime halved, and violent crime 35 per cent down.
But while 90 per cent of residents surveyed felt safe in their local area during the day, only 57 per cent felt safe after dark, with 28 per cent unsafe.