There have been two interesting developments for the manufacturing community in recent days, which as Master Cutler, representing the manufacturing sector, have particularly caught my attention.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke a few days ago about the desirability of exploring the development of some sort of new high speed rail network to link the major northern cities.
Although some of the reporting failed to list Sheffield among those cities, I don’t think this was intentional. Indeed the chair of the City Growth Commission, Jim O’Neill, has more recently commented on the Chancellor’s remarks and has specifically referred to Sheffield alongside Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Hull.
Mr O’Neill’s commission will report shortly and I expect the idea of this new network to feature strongly. He is reported to favour such a “mega metro”, believing it may be more beneficial to the growth of the Northern cities than the current plans for HS2 may be. The other development that caught my attention was the recent announcement of the award to the Sheffield City Region of new funding from the Government as part of the City Region Growth deals.
As with most Government announcements, it’s not always easy to interpret what is new money and what is repeating previous announcements but on first reading it does appear positive.
One sentence from the Government’s website says “…. this will create a total new investment package of £707.3 million for the Sheffield City region LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership).” If that’s correct it seems a significant amount and one that should be capable of really supporting the Region’s growth.
For me the key point and the reason I mention these two issues, is that there seems to be strong momentum to both rebalance the economy towards the northern cities and at the same time a push to put more responsibility for spending decisions out into the regions and away from Whitehall. This must be welcome news for us in Sheffield. With the greatest respect to our northern neighbours, none can credibly claim to have the manufacturing pedigree we do here in South Yorkshire; none has such a strong global reputation linked to a great brand like “Made in Sheffield”.
We must surely now take maximum advantage of this welcome impetus and get behind our Regional LEP and help them drive to position our region at the heart of the northern renaissance. This seems like an opportunity too good to miss.