South Yorkshire Mayor aims to create a ‘regional powerhouse’ - but admits challenges

The South Yorkshire Mayor has been questioned about an investment zone which could create 5,000 new jobs and has said he wants to create a regional powerhouse.
Oliver Coppard in front of the business and trade committee.Oliver Coppard in front of the business and trade committee.
Oliver Coppard in front of the business and trade committee.

Oliver Coppard told the parliament’s business and trade committee yesterday (November 21) that his job was “growth” but the investment zone alone wouldn’t be enough – there were a number of challenges along the way.

He said they hoped the investment zone would deliver £1.2bn in growth and 5,000 jobs in the next five years.

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He added South Yorkshire was the first place to mass produce steel and then the world’s first advanced manufacturing innovation district – and it is the UK’s first investment zone.

He said: “What we hope this allows us to do is shout about the fact that we’ve got this regional strength in South Yorkshire.”

Mr Coppard said they wanted to crowd the investment around that as well as around health and AI, among many more industries.

He said: “To create that regional powerhouse that helps drive not just the economy of South Yorkshire but the economy of the whole of the North of England – and indeed the whole of the country.”

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When talking about the challenges, he told the committee that the region had lost “about 40 per cent of our bus network” over the last decade alone, and added the investment zone wouldn’t address a number of challenges alone.

The committee members were told that the Investment Zone is just “one small part” of the growth strategy in South Yorkshire and Mr Coppard said without it they would do something similar with less money and support from the government.

He gave credit to the government – to Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor – for visiting South Yorkshire and talking about what scheme local leaders wanted to put in place.

Mr Coppard said: “I think that sort of grown-up policy making where the Combined Authority through my office was able to work with the government to design that plan around what we needed to advance our advanced manufacturing sector was a welcome approach.”

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He told the committee that his job was “growth” – to grow the economy of South Yorkshire – and to do that he needed to be able to have conversations with the Treasury, the Department for Health and other departments.

He was also asked about his plans to create high-quality jobs and where he thought the workers were going to come from.

Mr Coppard told the committee that “in South Yorkshire, we’re actually overskilled” and said the region had two world-class universities and graduates often stayed in the area for their “first jobs”.

However, many may feel that if they want to move up the career ladder in South Yorkshire that’s where the problem emerges.

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He said: “South Yorkshire’s economy is not complex enough, there are not enough tradable jobs…

“We’re losing the skills because they’re going elsewhere where they do have better growth, more jobs, more opportunities.

“That’s the challenge we’re trying to address through our growth plan.”