South Yorkshire has a “phenomenal opportunity” to reinvent itself now that HS2 is coming into Sheffield city centre, Lord Adonis said at the 382nd Cutlers’ Feast.
The former Secretary of State for Transport said a plan built around high speed rail and transformed links with local towns and neighbouring regions offered a “once in a century” chance to boost the economy.
And “brilliant” new mayor Dan Jarvis was the man to lead that drive, he added.
Lord Andrew Adonis was headline speaker at the historic feast at the Cutlers’ Hall in Sheffield. The white tie event is billed at the most important business dinner in the North.
He said: “South Yorkshire needs an economic plan to take advantage of HS2. For 30 years, since the abolition of the metropolitan authority in 1986, there has been no one whose job it was to promote the region. And it has paid the price.”
Dan Jarvis also needed to do the devolution deal, he added. The deal, for £1bn and powers, is on ice after the leaders of Barnsley and Doncaster withheld their consent to pursue a One Yorkshire ambition.
“Once you have a plan you know what powers you are asking for. Dan Jarvis definitely needs to do the deal.”
He added: “Throughout the 20th century South Yorkshire was at the economic heart of the county and it needs a plan to put it back.”
In response to Master Cutler Ken Cooke, who said Brexit should not be reversed due to the upheaval it would cause, he said: “The upheaval will be much greater if we Brexit than not. But Brexit is not the be all and end all, with the respect, local leaders can’t affect Brexit, national politicians will make or break that, but they can affect the future of South Yorkshire.”
Master Cutler Ken Cooke warned the region risked being “left in the wilderness” without devolution.
He said: “We have been deprived of valuable investment for the past two years and the business consensus is that we need to press ahead now and maximise the potential funding available for Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.
“No pressure then, but without this unity of purpose within the region we will be left in the wilderness and he needs to galvanise the region to introduce a new era of growth, development and economical stability.”
Senior Warden Nicholas Cragg said the region’s challenges were Brexit and the economic landscape, devolution, productivity, ➢and skills and education.
He added: “Here in our region, our manufacturing spirit is strong, we are ready for the opportunities that lie ahead. All that we ask is that we are able to compete on a level playing field with our international competitors.
“Let us make a success of devolution and not let other regions leave us behind. Give us a landscape of confidence for future investment to grow our businesses and the growth in quality jobs will follow
“We must not let down our younger generation – let us give them the openings that we have had but many in our region have been denied through lack of ambition or opportunity.”