Go-ahead for £1billion plan for the future

SHEFFIELD'S Economic Masterplan – which aims to bring £1 billion of new investment, boost earnings and bring jobs to the city – has taken a step forward after it was approved by the council's cabinet.

The crucial document, which sets out the city's strategy for the next 15 years, hopes to create:

30,000 new jobs – a third to come from growth in business and financial services, others from relocation of Government departments to the city, an expanded city centre and development of sports, leisure and tourism

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an eight per cent increase in individual average annual earnings, from 18,300 to 19,800, or 6,000 for a family of four

better internet capacity to attract high-tech industries

improved links with Manchester and Leeds to create a combined economic powerbase rivalling that of London – including tackling poor transport connections, such as reducing journey times to Manchester to 35 minutes by rail through track improvements.

The Economic Masterplan proposes that among the beneficiaries of new jobs should be 24,000 long-term unemployed or disabled people, substantially cutting incapacity or unemployment benefit claimants by up to 7,000.

They would be assisted through key workers, paid for by Government and European grants, better access to training, and locally-based job match schemes similar to the existing Job Net service which operates in parts of the city.

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Sheffield Council officials say the idea is to create a "service economy city".

Inward investment is to be attracted by development agencies Yorkshire Forward and English Partnerships.

The document was presented to cabinet members by Sheffield Council chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake. He said there was a need to tackle the perception of Sheffield's economy, which "lags behind the reality" of a city on-the-up since the 1990s, following a substantial period of decline which hit traditional industries.

Council deputy leader Coun Steve Jones called the Masterplan "ambitious but practical, building on the strengths of Sheffield".

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The Masterplan was outlined alongside a study highlighting the important economic interdependence between Sheffield and Rotherham - which is also likely to benefit from the development of Sheffield due to its close proximity.

That document was also accepted by the cabinet. Both will now be considered at a full meeting of Sheffield Council.

The Economic Masterplan has been welcomed by opposition Lib Dem councillors, but their deputy leader Coun David Baker warned: "There is a danger part of it, such as the improved transport links, could be a pipe dream unless it is backed by Government investment."

Coun Baker also called for greater emphasis to be placed on raising Sheffield youngsters' educational achievement, and tackling congestion.

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