Sheffield Council chief brands the government’s investment in the region as ‘peanuts’
Kate Josephs, Sheffield Council’s chief executive, was on a panel where she and other local leaders talked about innovation and opportunities for South Yorkshire at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s Factory 2050 yesterday (November 21).
Ms Josephs told the conference that the South Yorkshire investment zone was “fantastic and the announcement yesterday that it will be a 10-year investment and that is great” but added it’s “peanuts”.
She said: “You could buy a Premier League striker for more than that.
“And actually, there’s a huge amount of further freedoms and flexibilities and funding and risks that national government can be taking, frankly, because if they don’t, this country’s economy can’t survive on London alone or just on London or Manchester. We’re doing all the heavy lifting on leveraging that announcement.
“It needs cities like Sheffield and regions like South Yorkshire to survive and thrive.”
She said Sheffield “was a city of makers, inventors and creators” and added the city should be competitive and think globally as “Sheffield is, was, always has been a globally relevant, a globally ambitious city”.
Ms Josephs said the goal was to create an “entrepreneurial and creative Sheffield and centring our future development on those strengths on the idea that we are a place where all can succeed, where innovation is cultivated and celebrated”.
She added she had grown up in Doncaster and had left home because she had thought there was “no way” any future for her here.
She added: “We’ve got to change that, that narrative about our region.”
In the panel sat Sir Martin Donnelly, the president of Boeing Europe and a former civil servant, who said when he left the government he saw “so much potential” but not so much “understanding” about South Yorkshire.
He said he had since found out, for example, that Barnsley’s tech record was “fascinating and impressive”.
He added: “The university sector in this area commands a lot of loyalty from its graduates, people who’ve been to Sheffield partnered with Sheffield want to come back and want to support what’s going on here.”
Sir Martin added South Yorkshire had a huge opportunity to be one of the best places to bring in tech-level skills.
He said: “If you go to the Cambridge London corridor, you find people complaining about the shortage of lab assistants because people can’t find anywhere to live on the salaries that they are paid.
“South Yorkshire is a relatively low-cost region for people to live in – and that is a considerable comparative advantage. It’s also, of course, a very beautiful region. So your South Yorkshire can be green and growing at the same time.”
Dan Fell, the chief executive officer at Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, said South Yorkshire had to be unapologetically and relentlessly business friendly; pro-private sector, pro growth.
The panel members said the barriers to achieving growth, among other things, were “planning”, “the South Yorkshire International Airport being closed”, “broadband connectivity” and the issues with “inter-region transport”.