Sheffield people were asked what they liked most and least about the city, and this is what they said

Sheffielders across the city are being encouraged to share their stories and help shape its future, as part of a wide-ranging new project.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 17 May, 2019, 15:21

Sheffield City Partnership, which brings together private, voluntary and public sector organisations, has traditionally produced the annual State of Sheffield report – a snapshot of the city packed with facts and statistics.

But it’s taking a fresh approach this year, focusing on gathering people’s real-life experiences rather than raw data, and on putting communities – especially those who traditionally have not had much of a voice – at the heart of decision-making.

Boards at the State of Sheffield event illustrating what people say is good and bad about the city

That process has been going on since the start of the year, and this morning hundreds of people gathered at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium for a State of Sheffield event to discuss what happens next.

Laura White, Sheffield Council’s strategic partnership manager, said: “The State of Sheffield report is a great resource which has given us a fantastic evidence base for what we need to do.

“Now we’re focusing on listening to people and bringing their stories and experiences to decision makers. It’s a big exercise asking people what they want from our city.”

Groups discuss their views on how to improve the city at the State of Sheffield event

Sheffield Council’s deputy leader, Olivia Blake, said: “The State of Sheffield report is great but it’s just data. This is much more exciting for me because it’s digging deeper into communities and understanding exactly what it feels like to live in Sheffield.”

Sheffield City Partnership is drawing up a ‘Framework for an Inclusive & Sustainable Economy’ to address the inequalities laid bare by the State of Sheffield report, which exposed a gulf in life expectancy within neighbourhoods just a few miles apart.

It has been working with organisations across the city to gather people’s views on what’s best and worst about Sheffield, and how things could be improved by asking them to share their thoughts on posters.

An example of the posters people have been asked to fill in giving their thoughts on the city and how it could be improved

Some of those posters were on display this morning, with the same topics repeatedly cropping up in the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ columns.

The city’s wealth of green spaces, its friendly people and sense of pride were often cited as positives, while crime, city centre parking and – depressingly for the Streets Ahead team repairing Sheffield’s roads – potholes were the negatives mentioned time and again.

What happens next is still up for grabs, but there was a general consensus in the room that it was important to keep listening and to show people their voices are being heard by acting on what they say.

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In table discussions involving business leaders, politicians and members of various voluntary organisations, talk ranged from the need for a ‘strong leader’ in the mould of Manchester’s Andy Burnham to act as a figurehead for the city to how Sheffield can better promote itself and its history as the birthplace of football.

Guests also heard from the community organisations about how they have been getting people in their neighbourhoods involved.

Debbie Matthews, of the Manor and Castle Development Trust, told how it was vital to listen to people without making assumptions or rejecting their views because ‘it’s not what the system wants to hear’.

“This is Sheffield’s leaders talking to Sheffielders in a way that’s not been done before, and I think it’s the start of something special,” she added.

Matt Dean, chief executive of Zest in Upperthorpe, said the process was about devolution in its truest sense and ‘how we give power to our communities’.

“It’s really important we keep listening because if we have a community that feels it’s being listened to that a great platform for inclusive economic growth,” he added.

He also told how the process had unearthed hidden talents among young people in the community, who were developing a radio show as a result to help them express those creative skills.

David Blunkett, who chairs the city partnership, said the Blades’ success could serve as an inspiration for what the organisation is seeking to achieve.

“What Sheffield United have achieved is emblematic of what we’re trying to do here,” he told those gathered, speaking through gritted teeth as a devoted Owls fan.

“It’s about ambition and having a vision to turn things around, which they’ve been able to do. As we try to replicate that in other areas of city life, we will all see things begin to turn the corner, which is why we’re here this morning…

“We’re here to turn individual ambition, energy and drive into something bigger than any individual or small group can achieve alone.”

For more about the project and how you can get involved, visit www.sheffieldcitypartnership.org or email sheffieldcitypartnership@sheffield.gov.uk.