Bishop’s economic plea for north’s great cities

The Bishop of Sheffield Steven Croft and his wife Ann in their garden
The Bishop of Sheffield Steven Croft and his wife Ann in their garden

The Bishop of Sheffield has urged the Government to tackle the economic gap between London and the rest of the country.

Economic growth was to be welcomed, but the benefits should extend to the whole of the UK, not a single city, the Rt Rev Steven Croft told the House of Lords.

He called for a rebalancing of the economy back towards manufacturing and the releasing of the creative potential of “great cities”.

Dr Croft said: “We need a significant shift in the proportion of central government expenditure and resource allocation back to the regions. The large cities of the north of England have been disproportionately hit by reductions in local government spending and in investment in transport, in culture and the arts and in other areas.

“If we do nothing, we will see the gap between London and the regions continue to widen to the detriment of the whole country.”

The problem should be addressed “with imagination, courage and vigour and develop a strategy which will rebalance economic growth across the whole of our nation”.

London was a “truly global city”, where the economy is growing and where investment is focused,” said the Bishop. “We should welcome that growth. “But too many of our urban areas outside London are failing to achieve their growth potential.

“Since 2010, 79% of private sector jobs growth has occurred in London but in the same period, Britain’s next nine largest cities accounted for just 10% of all new private sector jobs created.

“Regional imbalances have serious consequences for our overall economy. We are not releasing the creative potential of our great cities to the benefit of their regions and the nation. This has serious consequences for the well being of many. Youth unemployment and underemployment, for example is a major challenge in South Yorkshire and blights many lives.

“As the recent Sheffield Fairness Commission powerfully illustrated, inequality between and within regions and cities has serious consequences for the overall sense of cohesion and fairness of life in the United Kingdom.”

Dr Croft called for the further strengthening of links between universities, research and industry, highlighting the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre off Sheffield Parkway as “a model for the future”.

Meanwhile, a major shift was needed in the balance of power to make decisions and determine investment. “The UK is one of the most centralised economies in the world. Local authorities control just 5% of money raised locally through taxation.”