Sheffield’s roads are the city’s worst-maintained public service - and local hospitals, GP surgeries and dental practices are the area most in need of increased funds.
That is the verdict delivered by readers of The Star, who were polled about their views on government and council spending as part of a major survey on the state of life in Sheffield.
Worries for the condition of the city’s road network were a particular concern, despite Sheffield being several years into a major PFI contract - the Streets Ahead deal with Amey - intended to repair cracked and potholed streets, renew footpaths, replace lighting and more.
When asked to give scores to a raft of services in Sheffield, just under 60 per cent of the 3,321 respondents deemed the roads to be ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’. The cleanliness of public places - how free spaces are from litter and dirt - also attracted a low rating, with 45 per cent saying the level of tidiness was ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’.
At the other end of the scale, Sheffield’s schools notched up a solid performance, with more than 60 per cent rating local primaries as ‘good’ or ‘average’.
When asked which services could be improved the most by extra spending, 56 per cent said hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and dental practices should be a top priority for investment.
However, almost half rated the city’s health system as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, suggesting satisfaction with the NHS and other providers remains high, notwithstanding the perceived need for additional money.
People were also broadly happy with bin collections, with more than 60 per cent rating them ‘good’ or ‘average’, suggesting residents are now used to the fortnightly rounds introduced in Sheffield five years ago.
Many respondents gave detailed answers explaining their opinions. One reader said roads were one of ‘the most visible problems that affect daily life’, while another said many streets were ‘crumbling to bits’.
“The roads are absolutely dreadful,” said one participant, a retired mother living in Chapeltown. “We travel a lot and can honestly say that roads in Sheffield are probably the worst we know. We recently had to apologise to a taxi driver who brought us up from Coventry following a coach holiday about the state of the roads once we had come off the M1. Our estate was resurfaced not long ago but the road is already breaking up on our fairly quiet street.”
Another reader, a married mother in her 30s from Birley, said the city should take an approach to cleanliness similar to that taken by the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, in the early 2000s. “Removing the litter stops the graffiti and stops the drug deals,” she said. “By taking care of the little things big things happen.”
Hospital staff were ‘overworked and under a lot of pressure’, said one respondent, a mother in her 60s from Halfway. “They do a great job under very difficult circumstances. When I’ve been kept in hospital overnight it’s obvious that staff cannot give the patients the attention they need.”
A further reader said: “We all need hospitals at some point in our lives and they need support.”
Meanwhile half of respondents called for extra funds to be ploughed into policing, with a similar number urging government and council leaders to invest more money in social care.
“The police need more men and women as they themselves are not safe,” said a participant in her 20s from Mosborough.
“Social care needs to be invested in, funded properly and respected as a profession - it can create jobs as well as providing care for people who need it most,” added another respondent, a retired woman in her 60s from Nether Edge.
Council, police and NHS join debate
Council, police and health bosses have all joined the debate sparked by The Star’s survey.
Dr Alan Billings, the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, agreed the force needed more money to maintain an effective service.
“Feeling and being safe is vital for living a reasonable life. This is why we value the police service and need it properly funded,” he said.
“Since 2010, South Yorkshire Police has had to cut its budget by £73m. This has resulted in a loss of police officers and staff and stretched the service.
“The force will continue to make savings where it can and be more efficient where it can. But we will need to replace the ageing 101 service in 2018, and that costs money.”
Council cabinet member Cate McDonald said social care had been spared the worst of the cuts but it was ‘very hard to keep up with growing demand’ as the population ages. New funding was being used to help people stay well, prevent problems from deepening and strengthen links with health services.
“It’s not enough to make up the shortfall and does not cover children’s services at all, but we’re using it to look at how we can do things differently to help people.”
A spokesman for the Streets Ahead service said the findings about the cleanliness of Sheffield’s public spaces were ‘disappointing’. Cleaners work round the clock, he said, and were sent out in response to reports. The council also pointed to the outcome of a different poll that found satisfaction with the state of the city’s roads had doubled since 2010.
A spokeswoman for the NHS Sheffield CCG said the organisation had only received a ‘small increase’ in funding in 2017/18.
“We need to make sure we spend every penny wisely and don’t spend more than we have available.”
A new prescription order phone line has saved £200,000 this year, she said.