The State of Sheffield 2016

Yesterday we launched the State of Sheffield 2016, an independently written report that draws together a wide range of publicly available data to tell the story of how Sheffield is doing.  The report is commissioned by Sheffield Executive Board, and the lead author is Professor Gordon Dabinett of the University of Sheffield, so it is not subject to editorial control by any public institution.

This is the fifth report we have produced in the current format.  Each report has focused on different issues, so they really need to be read as one to build a full picture of the city, but in producing this report the authors felt the time was right to look back over those five years, to see if any trends have been established that are meaningful for Sheffield’s future.

So what does the report tell us?   Here are some highlight messages:

  • Sheffield continues to grow as a city with 563,700 people living here in 2014, and it is becoming increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan.
  • Gross Value Added (GVA) and GVA per head have grown in Sheffield and the City Region between 2003 and 2013 and on this basis the city and region show an equivalent or higher rate of economic growth than other city regions.  But this comes from a low base: Sheffield City Region has the lowest GVA per head of all comparator areas and other city regions.
  • Sheffield has a better performance on employment than most other major UK cities, but wages remain low relative to national averages and other Core Cities.
  • The 2015 Indices of Deprivation indicate that more people in the city live in the most deprived areas in national terms, while at the same time people live in the least deprived areas: the city is more polarised than it was in 2010.
  • Sheffield children are making progress in Early Years, Key Stage 2 and GCSE attainment: gaps to the national average still exist, though in some cases these are starting to close.
  • Youth unemployment remains a challenge, with the June 2015 rate of 24.3% above the national average and the highest of all core cities, driven by high female youth unemployment. That being said, Sheffield and its City Region are making big strides in developing skills through apprenticeships, and there is evidence that young people in SCR are better prepared for work than elsewhere.
  • More Sheffield young people from all parts of the city are gaining a place at a university, and the job market for new graduates in Sheffield is better than it has been since 2007.
  • Life expectancy has improved for Sheffield residents, and the gap between male (78.8 years) and female (82.4 years) figures has narrowed to 3.5 years.
  • Healthy life expectancy has improved for men to 61 years, but has fallen for women from 61 years in 2009-11 to 59 years in 2011-13.
  • There are increasing mental and emotional health needs in young people and women in Sheffield, matching national trends and linked strongly with deprivation and health inequality.

With this, and other, findings in mind, the report goes on to suggest some critical areas of focus for Sheffield as it plans for the future:

  • As a growing city, Sheffield needs to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population in a context of public services austerity, and the need to attract and retain a balanced population.
  • To remain a young and vibrant city, Sheffield needs to accelerate the improvements it is making in the education and skills arena, and it needs to work to reduce gaps in performance that exist across the city. The city also needs to ensure older people get the services they need, and that young people, black & minority ethnic people and women are more able to access better quality employment.
  • There are encouraging signs for Sheffield’s future economy, but growth needs to be accelerated, and consideration needs to be given to the city’s relationship with the City Region in this context.
  • Sheffield needs to work together better so that the city can become a fairer and more just place, looking at both in-work and out-of-work poverty as issues that threaten the future success of the city.
  • Sheffield’s environment remains a major asset, as outlined in the new Outdoor City Strategy; the city needs to ensure it is maintained, so questions of sustainability are crucial to Sheffield’s future.
  • There are significant changes underway in leadership and governance of the city and city region, with the establishment of the SCR combined authority, potential for a city region mayor and devolution of funding. This raises new opportunities for the city to work with its city region partners to shape economic growth and promote social inclusion across the region.

I really recommend you read the report in full.  Sheffield has the capacity to be a truly great 21st century city, but we will only get there by everyone pulling in the same direction – and that starts with everyone having the same understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face.

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What does good growth mean for Sheffield?

On Friday 4th December we hosted, with New Start magazine and the New Economics Foundation, a roundtable discussion on alternative approaches to economic development in Sheffield, as part of a New Start/NEF series on all ten core cities.  This post was part of the resulting Sheffield issue, which you can read at

Last Friday Sheffield First, with New Start and NEF, hosted a roundtable discussion looking at alternative models of economic growth, with a particular interest in how we can ensure that growth is fair and inclusive, so that it benefits everyone in our city and not just a few. This is a major concern in Sheffield; our city was one of the first places to run a Fairness Commission, and we have built on its work by developing the Our Fair City campaign, focused on raising awareness of the challenges people are facing and encouraging action to tackle them.

There was a lot of real interest and import raised during our conversation – we heard a useful précis of the challenges facing Sheffield and its institutions from the City Council, and from Portland Works and Regather on work they are doing to reinvigorate the local economy of Little Sheffield, a small neighbourhood just outside the city centre ringroad. We also spent a fair amount of time discussing the desirability of growth; in short, the outcome was that no-one thinks we don’t need growth (a misunderstanding that gets in the way of constructive debate too often). The question is: are we pursuing the right model to generate fair and inclusive growth, or what some have termed Good Growth?

The general feeling in Sheffield is that we don’t discuss enough what Good Growth actually means. And when we start discussing it, as we did on Friday, different people have different interpretations, with some focused on environmental sustainability, others on social good, and others emphasising the need to support economic growth and profit. But, as we agreed at last week’s meeting, good growth could (and should) mean all of this: with as many people as possible being able to access reasonably paid and secure employment, a city that develops in a way that values the environment and also supports its vulnerable residents.

The outcome of the meeting was a cross sector commitment to further develop Sheffield’s understanding and approach to good growth. The meeting agreed to write to the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership asking them to support, and hopefully offer resources to develop, this initiative. We also agreed that it is important to develop case studies and stories demonstrating good growth in practice, building on the history of cooperation and radicalism in Sheffield and celebrating local work. And we committed to holding a one day conference in 2016, hopefully in partnership with NEF and New Start with the idea of showcasing projects and generating commitment and momentum.

For me, the key thing is: if we are to get those responsible for setting economic strategy to listen to calls for a fairer and more inclusive approach, then we will need to build a strong and coherent case for a better way. This means developing stories of success, and shouting about them. Hopefully, in Sheffield we are about to start doing that.

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A living wage?

It’s now just over a week since the Summer Budget, and as usual what it means is gradually becoming clearer in a range of areas.

The big news on the day was the announcement of what George Osborne called the “National Living Wage”, which really stole the headlines. While an increase in wages for those on low incomes is obviously to be welcomed, the Our Fair City advisory group have agreed that there are more than a few problems with the plan.

The first is the link with plans to cut tax credits, with the level of earnings above which entitlements are reduced now significantly lower, saving the government around £6bn. This will result in a huge reduction in income for some people, which the new higher minimum wage will only scratch the surface of: the Institute for Fiscal Studies say that altogether the budget will leave those with low household incomes significantly worse off.

Importantly, it is important to also note that the increase in the minimum wage is not even targeted very well as a replacement for tax credits. Tax credits are designed to lift low family incomes; an increased minimum wage, however, benefits any individual on a low hourly wage, regardless of what other family earnings might be. So the most pain will be felt by those least able to bear it. We already know from this year’s State of Sheffield report that 43% of households in our city are vulnerable to financial stress: these changes will do little to help.

Another difficulty is the restriction of the new minimum wage to those over the age of 25. Young people are those most likely to be working on a low wage, and other measures in the budget such as the removal of housing benefit entitlement for young people are also hitting them hard.

It is also worth noting that despite the title he has given it, Osborne’s national living wage is different from what is generally understood as the living wage: the Living Wage is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, which currently gives a figure of £7.85. The London Living Wage is higher, at £9.15, higher now than the new measure will be by 2020. And these figures assume tax credits set at current levels – without these the Living Wage would likely be over £11!

There has been a lot of reaction from businesses, both large and small on the national “living” wage, with many bosses lining up to say they cannot afford to pay it.   Regardless of the outcome of debates around this new measure, we can know that cuts to welfare will go ahead. Here in Sheffield we will need to think about how we work together to support people through the challenges of the next few years.

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Fair employment for all?

Over the last few months, I’ve heard from a lot of people how affected they were by a speech given at the launch of the Our Fair City campaign by Delroy Galloway. Delroy talked with great honesty and frankness about his experience of finding work as a young man and the discrimination he experienced, highlighting how important fair access to jobs is and how this goes beyond ensuring people have the right educational opportunities to how recruitment practices operate.

This issue has been raised again by two recent reports: one from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and one from the Government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. What do these tell us that might have implications for Sheffield?

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report looks at how cities can connect people in poverty with jobs; as this suggests, its concern is with the systems in place to get people into work in the first place, keep them there and help them progress.

Key points in the report are:

  • Job seekers need high quality information, advice and guidance to help develop skills and look for the best way back into work; with training tailored to match the needs of the local economy and employers;
  • Benefit sanctions might increase the number of people coming off benefits and into employment, but there is no evidence that people are earning more or are in better jobs as a result;
  • Job quality is vital to people staying in work, with the emphasis being on the right job, not the first job;
  • Work experience and workplace-based training are hugely helpful to those looking for work, including apprenticeships;
  • Recruitment and selection practices have a huge impact on the ability of unemployed people to access jobs, and progress. There are a range of options that can be used to influence things here, such as subsidies to reduce risk to employers, adjusting how public services buy to favour companies that employ local people, and using the planning process to make local jobs a condition of development;
  • Connecting training to growing sectors of the local economy is vital for progression into better and more well paid positions;
  • All local areas are different, and the employment and skills system in an area needs to be designed to fit – one size does not fit all.

Though there are some challenges here, there is also good news for Sheffield, in that work is already underway on initiatives that connect with the themes in the report. As part of Sheffield’s Better Connected programme of Public Service Reform, programmes are developing more people-centred approaches to employment support, taking into account an individual’s full circumstances when helping them get into work.

Sheffield’s employers are also fully engaged in that work, ensuring that it works in a way the suits them and supports them in taking people in difficult circumstances on. There is also good news on apprenticeships, with Sheffield remaining one of leaders on delivering these nationally.

We can’t rest on our laurels though, and must continue to look at how we can improve the system locally, including looking at additional powers we could get from the Government as conversations around Devolution develop. Joint commissioning of the Work Programme is a possibility from 2017 under the Sheffield Devolution Deal; we should look to take this forward and build on it where possible.

The Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission report looks at the other end of the scale, at how elite firms in legal, accountancy and financial sectors recruit and what impact this has on how their intakes reflect the social make-up of the country. The report has a number of challenging findings:

  • Lack of actual data means firms don’t really understand the full picture;
  • There is a focus on Russell Group universities that themselves have intakes that do not reflect the wider social make-up of the UK;
  • Recruitment practices focus on past achievement, not potential, so that there is a built-in bias to those with educational advantage (for example, through private education or attendance at a selective school);
  • Companies do not see the commercial case for widening the social background of their intake, so do not make it a priority;
  • Recruitment is based around a view of “talent” that is informed by social classes;
  • Where social inclusion programmes have existed, these have been focused on London;
  • School leaver recruitment programmes, where they exist, are small scale compared to graduate recruitment;
  • The social uniformity of recruits means those who come from outside this group can feel isolated and unsupported.

All told, the picture is of elite professions that remain extremely hard to break into, where support to access positions goes to those who need it least. If Sheffield is to fulfil its aim to become the Fairest City in the UK, we will need to ensure this is not the case here. We are working with local employers to develop ways of addressing these issues and will announce an initiative soon – look out for this later in the year.

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Looking ahead…

Cutting_Edge_water_sculptureA month on, and now that the dust has settled, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the outcome of the election and what this might mean for Sheffield and the work of Sheffield Executive Board.

There are two obvious policy areas with major implications for Sheffield: the continuation of austerity and resulting cuts in a range of areas, and the confirmation of the Government’s commitment to decentralisation and devolution.

George Osborne has reaffirmed his commitment to increasing savings from central government budgets and from the welfare budget, with the government aiming to cut a further £12bn per year from the welfare budget by 2018, in addition to the £18bn already made under the Coalition.

Research by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research (CRESR) has shown that the Coalition cuts took £169m per year out of Sheffield’s economy, equivalent to £460 from every household (though this is not balanced across the city). The government are yet to set out in detail how they aim to achieve their planned reductions, but it seems likely that there will be further impacts on Sheffield’s citizens and its economy.

This has critical implications for the Board and the Partnership. We need to think carefully about what we need to do to ensure the city supports its residents, and we need to think about how we respond to further cuts in service budgets as they come through the system.

This touches on some of the big things SEB have been leading on over the past year or so:

  1. They have developed an approach to building resilient communities that builds on the work organisations at all levels and in all sectors have been doing in the city to show how working with communities in the right way can help develop the capabilities to adapt and thrive in the face of change;
  2. They have been leading on public service reform in Sheffield, working with the national Public Service Transformation Network to figure out how Sheffield’s public services need to change to address the reducing resources available while still providing what its citizens need, when they need it;
  3. They have developed and launched the Our Fair City Campaign, which aims to stimulate discussion and action amongst citizens to ensure Sheffield becomes and remains the fairest city.

They have also been discussing the gathering momentum on devolution in detail, and it does look as if this will be one of the areas that will dominate the term of this government.

SOS-13It was interesting to hear the conversations at the February launch of the State of Sheffield 2015 (for more on these read our report on the event) as it was clear from these that a large section of the city is still unclear about what the implications of and issues around devolution are. SEB have recognised this, and committed to developing the city conversation on the subject through a series of events over the course of this year – look out for these.

There was also discussion around how Sheffield collaborates with its City Region partners, and it seems clear that this will be a key issue as discussion around devolution develops. Sheffield needs to be clear on what it thinks it can do with devolved powers, and put forward a strong proposition to government – but everyone, inside and outside the city, needs to be bought into this.

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State of Sheffield: Young People’s View

Last night we opened a short exhibition of photos taken by Sheffield College students for the State of Sheffield 2015.  We had a small, low-key gathering with students and their parents, staff from the College and a few SEB members and gave some prizes for the images that best met the brief given to the students.

I have to say though that although there could only be three prize winners, I thought any one of the photos on display could have won something.  I’ve been really impressed with the work put in by these young people; there’s a lot of talent in Sheffield and maybe we need to remember that a bit more than we do.

The exhibition is in the Winter Garden until the end of Friday this week; if you have a chance I urge you to take a look, it is really worth it.

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The State of Sheffield 2015

Today is a major milestone in our year: we’re publishing the State of Sheffield 2015 report.

This is an important document for the city: it brings together publicly available data and reports to paint a picture of Sheffield, pulling all the challenges and opportunities the city faces into one place to provide a balanced account of how Sheffield is doing.

It’s produced independently for SEB and isn’t under the editorial control of any of the member organisations, so it really does tell it like it is – I’m not aware of any other place that is taking this kind of hard look at itself and I think it’s to Sheffield’s credit that it does so.

So what does this year’s report tell us? I think the key messages can be summed up as follows:

  • Sheffield is facing challenges but also has many opportunities;
  • Sheffield compares relatively well with its peer cities in Europe and around the globe, but does not match the best in class.
  • Sheffield needs to think about its relationship with the rest of its city region, and beyond to the rest of the North of England in light of this.
  • Sheffield and the wider city region is now on the road to devolution, with the first steps being the city deal, growth deal and finally the Devolution deal signed at the end of 2014. The city needs to think about what sort of devolution it wants, and what it wants to do with it.
  • Welfare reform is a significant challenge for Sheffield, both in terms of the impact on citizens and in terms of the money no longer in the economy
  • Partly as a result of welfare reform Sheffield still faces challenges around fairness, but it is facing up to them, with a series of major initiatives from all parts of the city (ie not just the Council) aimed at making Sheffield the fairest city
  • Climate change remains a major future challenge. Sheffield and its City Region has the “green capital” to be a leader in this area but needs to work to strengthen its response. The Green Commission will be important in this.

The report also poses some questions for the city:

  1. Recognising the experience of successful European cities, how will Sheffield continue to collaborate with its sister city regions of Leeds and Manchester in the context of the emerging Northern Powerhouse?
  2. How will Sheffield achieve greater recognition as the core city and key economic asset for the wider city region?
  3. How can the city sustain its move towards becoming fairer? What are the challenges and threats to becoming a fairer city?
  4. How will Sheffield use the devolved responsibilities it has secured through the Devolution Deal to respond better to local needs and demands, whilst also considering how it progresses the devolution agenda over the next year?
  5. How will the city respond to challenges brought by climate change?

I really recommend you read it in full. Sheffield has the capacity to be a truly great place, but we will only get there by everyone pulling in the same direction – and that starts with everyone having the same understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face.

As well as reading it, we also want to hear what you think, or if you have any ideas or other contributions to the debate around the report and its findings. I hope we can have a constructive debate here, or on Twitter (@SheffieldFirst) or even on email (

I look forward to hearing from you!

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How should Sheffield approach devolution?

With the referendum on Scottish independence (and the associated campaign), followed by the Manchester and Sheffield Devolution Deals, the issue of devolving power to different parts of the UK from central government just keeps rising up the political agenda.

There’s no doubt that the deal agreed before Christmas has huge implications for Sheffield, so Sheffield Executive Board dedicated time at their November and December meetings to discussing it and what the city’s future approach to devolution should be (you can download a paper summarising their discussion here).  The latter point formed the key focus of the discussion, with a real sense that devolution should be pursued only in a form that serves Sheffield’s interests, and in particular that devolution should be pursued in the service of two concerns:

  1. Economic growth leading to better jobs and wages
  2. A reduction in inequality and poverty

For me, it was heartening to hear the city’s leaders so engaged in discussion of how Sheffield could do things better if it had the powers and freedoms necessary.  But it is also interesting to think about the impact the Scottish Referendum campaign had on political engagement north of the border, and about how devolution could increase the relevance and importance of local institutions and consequently result in a re-invigorated local politics.

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Social movements for change

The debate continues on how Sheffield can reduce inequalities, and from this, along with national and international debates around the current model of economic growth, I have come across some interesting ideas around social movements for change.  I am not certain that I fully understand these ideas yet, but big organisations such as the Young Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Trust are seriously exploring this approach.

The idea seems to be that we will get much better at understanding the causes and impact of inequality, and develop much better solutions, if we work with those experiencing inequalities to co-design solutions based on social movements for change.  Two examples of this approach are the Mayor of Oklahoma who announced on New Year’s Day, in front of the elephant pavilion at Oklahoma Zoo, that his doctor had told him to lose weight and as Oklahoma was one of the fattest cities in America, he had decided he wanted to lose weight with his city.  A social movement of change was launched, called, which has resulted in the city losing a huge amount in weight and Oklahoma adopting new ways of addressing big issues.

A second inspiring story is Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge, which worked with people experiencing poverty who have now formed a Poverty Truth Challenge team and go to talking directly to civic, business and community leaders about what can be done to help those in poverty, including things such as changes to recruitment practices.  What a powerful approach!

Could Sheffield begin to utilise approaches such as this?  The Our Fair City campaign is potentially a tool to create a social movement to promote fairness, but it needs more support and involvement.

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Thoughts on Our Fair City

Our Fair City logoIt has now been just over a fortnight since the launch of the Our Fair City campaign, something I have been deeply involved in developing over the past 18 months.  The event was a real success, with some powerful speeches from a wide range of speakers and generated some great media coverage.

Things are already starting to move quicker and even after a week it is interesting to reflect on what the research we conducted when developing the campaign told us.  Here’s a few headlines from the research and some thoughts on what we’re seeing through the campaign.

People care about Sheffield and fairness but are unsure how achievable a fair city really is

The fact that people care about Sheffield and fairness came through really strongly in all the speeches, in particular Glyn Rhodes and Delroy Galloway who both talked with passion about their experiences of the city.  We know that people are sceptical that a truly fair city is achievable, but I think we also know following the launch that there are also people who really think it is and are committed to seeing it happen.

People see it as responsibility of the powerful and want to see them acting

This came through really strongly in our research, that people want to see those in positions of power taking responsibility and doing something.  It was really heartening that there are key figures signed up as Champions to launch the campaign, and from such a range of backgrounds; it really demonstrates that the city is committed to doing something.  It also shows that fairness is an issue that matters to everyone, regardless of background or party politics.  We’re seeing more evidence of this as prominent people continue to sign up to be Champions: just this week both David Blunkett and Nick Clegg have put their names forward.

People recognise they can do something themselves

Above all it is really important that people recognise that doing something about fairness is for everyone, not just those in positions of privilege or power, with getting this across being a key aim for the Our Fair City campaign.  With the launch I think we have made a great start on this, with lots of people already making commitments – as I write we have 57 signed up to be Champions and 93 pledges made via the Our Fair City website, and we have over 151 twitter followers and some really interesting online conversations.

It’s just a start, and there is still lots to do, but I think we have made a great first step on the road to making Sheffield a fairer city.  Part of the campaign will be about having conversations about what fairness means to each of us, and there will undoubtedly be challenges in these, and that is absolutely right.  But I feel we are now on the path to making Sheffield the fairest city.

Become a champion at

Make a pledge at

Follow the campaign at @FairSheffield


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