Keir Starmer: ‘Sheffield has a great future, we just need to match that with the ambition’
Sir Keir Starmer visited a sunny Sheffield city centre today to see the work the council was doing to regenerate it and talk to local business owners.
The Labour Party leader walked around the Heart of the City II area with councillors Bob Johnson, recently appointed leader of the council, and Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment.
It came ahead of the local elections in May in which Sheffield Labour could lose control of the council.
Sir Starmer said: “It’s been a really great day seeing some of the regeneration work going on here of which I think is really exciting, it’s just what the city centre needs and I can feel the excitement as people imagine what that is going to look like at the end of 2022 and I’m definitely coming back to see it when it’s finished.”
Talking about John Lewis devastating the city with its announcement it would close its Sheffield store, Sir Keir said it was a big loss and part of the answer will be to regenerate the areas around it, as he had seen in his own constituency.
When asked what Sheffield needed to do to compete with other core cities, he said: “There has to be a real ambition for Sheffield and particularly the city centre, it needs to be a place people want to come to in the future and that is why the regeneration is so important.
“If this becomes a magnet for people to come in pop up restaurants, bars, places where people can meet then that will bring Sheffield alive. Sheffield is a great city, it’s got a great future, we just need to match that with the ambition. I’ve always been really fond of Sheffield and Yorkshire generally so I’m very much looking forward to coming back and I hope that is how most people feel about Sheffield – that it’s a great city with a great future.”
On what the local party needed to do to restore faith in it ahead of the elections, he said: “What we need to do is get out there and make the argument. Obviously it’s difficult in a pandemic because the one thing the Labour Party is very good at is getting lots of supporters and volunteers out there, knocking on doors etc – that has been much more difficult during the pandemic.
“But most of all we have got to make our argument about rebuilding trust, connecting, resetting the Labour Party and showing what a difference Labour makes in power.
“Here with the council being in Labour hands you have seen a council that has stood by people during the pandemic – communities, delivering food, businesses that needed support, so you have seen the difference it made at the time when people most needed it.
“But you have also seen the ambition for what Sheffield city centre could look like in 2022 and that is a council with real ambition so we have got to get out there and make those arguments, we are fighting for every single vote.”