I’ve been calling for Sheffield to have more power, control and funding from the moment I was selected as Labour’s candidate in Sheffield Hallam.
I was born and raised here and I currently work on sustainable economic development projects in the Sheffield city region. I know that we have the capacity, the people and the ideas to thrive and grow, and to compete not only with Manchester but on a global scale.
At the moment, behind closed doors, there are deals being done prior to an announcement about the ‘devolution’ of more government-controlled spending. At best, we’re likely to get more local control over the central government money that is already spent here on things like skills, housing and transport.
Those changes are being forced through by the Government in a rush to get them announced before the General Election. It’s no coincidence that Nick Clegg is now backing so-called devolution after recent polls show that he’s in danger of losing his seat next May, not least because local people realise how badly he’s let Sheffield down since he’s been in government.
The cuts inflicted on Sheffield by Nick Clegg’s government have been devastating: £238 million cut from our central government funding and £175m cut from our European funding. The cancelled £80m loan to Forgemasters will also live long in the memory. Under this government Sheffield and the North will continue to suffer from a lack of investment, opportunity and support. Despite recently announced transport ‘plans’, the government are spending just £2.52 per person on infrastructure in Yorkshire compared to £770.56 per person in London. Sheffield was mentioned just once in yesterday’s Autumn Statement.
Five months away from the election, the Government are handing us the keys to the car just after they’ve siphoned off all the petrol. Look past the rhetoric and it’s clear they will not give Sheffield the tools we require to solve our social and economic problems. What is needed are coherent and far-reaching changes to the relationship between London and the rest of the country, and a constitutional convention that looks at the way power and funding are distributed in England. What we don’t need are half-hearted plans designed to fit in with a politically-driven timetable.