Special Report: We need to get together to give region a better future

Sir Andrew Cash - The launch of the new vision for the Sheffield City Region. Picture: Chris Etchells
Sir Andrew Cash - The launch of the new vision for the Sheffield City Region. Picture: Chris Etchells

Impressive report full of ideas and initiatives must not be ‘a shiny document that just sits on a shelf’, but businesses and individuals must translate it into action, say education and health bosses at launch event.

A long-term vision designed to stop bickering and make Sheffield City Region a success regardless of party politics was launched by education and health bosses last week.

The launch of the new vision for the Sheffield City Region. Picture: Chris Etchells

The launch of the new vision for the Sheffield City Region. Picture: Chris Etchells

It sets out six key areas where collaborative thinking is needed to improve the lives of everyone living in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, Chesterfield and everywhere else in the region.

And it calls on businesses and individuals to do their bit to make the vision a success.

The document, called A Better Future Together, certainly looks impressive, and is full of ideas and initiatives.

But speaking at the launch event at the Advanced Munfacturing Research Centre in Catcliffe Tony Pedder, chairman of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, the University of Sheffield and Forgemasters, said it could not be a ‘shiny document that sits on a shelf’ but had to translate into action.

A new culture of collective strategic action is needed by all

He added: “The scale of our collective ambition needs to be bolder, the diversity of well-intentioned projects needs to evolve into coherent long-term projects of effective action and a new culture of collective strategic action is needed by all.”

The vision focuses on supporting innovation and enterprise, improving the region’s global reputation while turning that into value locally, joining up health and wellbeing, transforming education and skills, promoting a ‘regional green network’ and better connecting people.

Among the ideas within the document are the creation of innovation districts to encourage enterprise and research, increase support for small businesses and develop a plan to retain high- quality graduates.

At the launch event, the University of Sheffield’s vice-chancellor Prof Sir Keith Burnett said the region still had a strong international reputation from its manufacturing past, but it needed to develop to succeed.

Highlighting emerging industries such as digital, creative and logistics, he said: “This is the place where we can put together a new industrial revolution.”

The report highlights the need to focus on the prevention of disease, and aims to turn the city region into the most physically active in the UK.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals chief executive Sir Andrew Cash said there were three main problems in the city region.

The first, and biggest, was health inequality.

Sir Andrew said there were differences of up to 12 years in life expectancy between different areas. This is linked to ‘long, slow-burning issues’ such as access to jobs, education and opportunities.

The second, said Sir Andrew, was inequality of access to health and care services.

“We want to provide top-quality care services for local people wherever they are in this region,” he said.

And the third problem was a lack of planning of care systems.

Sir Andrew said: “We need to refocus our resources and priorities into people’s health and wellbeing.

“We need to start thinking about prescribing exercise as opposed to medicines where it’s appropriate to do so.”

The vision also calls for a plan to address the lack of qualifications and competence in the region and low performance in some schools.

Sheffield Hallam University vice-chancellor Professor Chris Husbands said there was plenty of work to be done.

“Excellence is too thinly spread across the city and the city region,” he said.

“This is the challenge we have to face if we are going to build a system that delivers the highly-skilled, highly-qualified people who we will need in the future.”

Prof Husbands said the region faced many challenges, and the vision was necessary for success.

“Around the world there are strong correlations between economic success, social cohesion and underlying high performance education and skills systems,” he said.

“We have to think on a 25-year scale. We have to think about young people who are not yet in the system.

“We frequently think in terms of success and failure. We have to think differently. It’s accepting that good is not good enough.

“We have to assess failures as part of a long-term progression towards highly successful systems.”

The vision also includes a strategy to create an ‘urban national park’, connecting the Peak District, Sherwood Forest, Dearne Valley and the South Yorkshire Forest.

It was welcomed by Sheffield Wildlife Trust chief executive Liz Ballard, who called the report a ‘very positive document’.

“It’s great to have a discussion over what an urban national park might mean,” she said.

“We all feel better when we have a great outdoor experience.”

And the report says the region should have a digital network meeting the best global standards, with better connectivity in terms of transport.

As well as HS2 and HS3, it focuses on Doncaster Sheffield Airport and the M1 corridor as key to the success of the city region.

The authors of the report have now urged everyone in the region to read it, decide how they can help – be it through time, resources or ideas – and make a pledge of support.

* The full document can be read online at Sheffield city Region Vision

Turning recommendations into a reality

Tony Pedder acknowledged at the launch of the Sheffield City Region that the document couldn’t be left on a shelf looking pretty.

The ‘anchor institutions’ – Sheffield’s universities and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust – have made their commitments. But key for progress, according to the vision authors, is for as many people across the region to be actively involved in the six action areas the report includes.

Lord David Blunkett is the independent chairman of Sheffield Partnership Board, and worked with city region colleagues to help put the new vision together.

“I hope that by building on the strength of the consultation and the crucial links that have been developed as part of the process we can now take forward the recommendations,” he said.

“As a region, our destiny lies in our own hands which is why going forward together is a necessity not an option.”