Rallying call for Sheffield as countdown to mayoral election continues

Lord David Blunkett.
Lord David Blunkett.
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Council bosses and business leaders need to put ‘squabbling’ behind them and focus on promoting Sheffield as the countdown to the election for a directly elected mayor continues.

That was the message from Lord David Blunkett, chairman of Sheffield City Partnership, as the annual State of Sheffield report is released.

Lord Blunkett said Sheffield could get left behind if it doesn’t ‘sing and shout’ about work being done in the city.

“We have got to lift the profile of the city, especially with the election of the metro mayor in May,” he said.

“The emphasis has been on those major regions like the West Midlands and Greater Manchester where they have mayors and they have some resource and devolved powers and with that comes a greater profile.

“When people talk about regions outside London they don’t talk about Sheffield and I think this is the time, on the release of this year’s report, to say: ‘Let’s get our act together.

“Whether people like it or not a mayor in a city like Sheffield in a region like ours is a driving force. We have got to make Sheffield sell and then the Sheffield City Region can grow.”

The report, an annual analysis of the city’s strengths and weaknesses, said mental and physical health issues were a ‘major barrier’ to people being in work and the combined costs of sickness absence and health-related productivity losses was to be more than £1 billion a year.

It also said the city’s population was now estimated at 569,000, with up to 620,000 expected to be living in Sheffield by 2030.

Sheffield City Region’s mayoral election has been marred by a row over whether a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal should be presented.

Lord Blunkett added: “An analysis of where you are is a pretty important starting point and I think we have got to forget about the squabbling, forget the history - let’s do this together.

“If people want to build on this deal on a wider basis, then fine but we have got to make it work first and it’s got to work as a foothold in the region.

“We need to be the same as the big players and sing and shout about our city. I am sick and tired of hearing about Greater Manchester doing this and that, I want to hear about Sheffield and South Yorkshire.”