Power shift sees city take charge

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SHEFFIELD is named today as one of eight cities to be released from the ‘overbearing control’ of central government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg is announcing “an unprecedented transfer of power” from Whitehall designed to act as a catalyst for growth and the rebalancing of the economy.

One of the key changes will see Sheffield being able to decide how to spend millions of pounds raised from its business rates by April 2013 instead of the money going to the central treasury.

More economic and political freedom is being promised to eight ‘core cities’ over the raising and spending of money, transport, housing, the delivery of broadband and the opportunities to boost skills and jobs.

There will be “no more going on bended knee” to Whitehall departments to bid for funds for individual schemes. Instead, cities will get one ‘consolidated capital pot’ to direct as they see fit, “whether that is on a new roundabout, or a new retail park. Whatever their area needs to boost economic activity.”

The ‘city deals’ will see government offer greater freedom and autonomy. In return, cities must guarantee that they will provide adequate leadership and accountability, improve efficiency and be innovative in their approach.

Mr Clegg is making the announcement in Leeds - one of the ‘core cities’ that he sees as one of the powerhouses in a new economic strategy. Also on the list are Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Manchester.

Councils will be scrutinising the details to see exactly how much extra political, economic and spending power they are getting - and whether there are any hidden catches.

In particular, the Labour authority in Sheffield will be looking for reassurances that it is not being burdened with unrealistic expectations at a time when it facing more big public spending cuts.

THE University of Sheffield is “strongly objecting” to the proposed conversion of a former bank on its campus into a supermarket selling alcohol until midnight.

It is warning of binge drinking, disorder and traffic problems if Sainsbury’s is granted a 24-hour licence for the premises at the corner of Upper Hanover Street and Hounsfield Road.

Already the University says it has suffered from “numerous” problems in this location, “from the theft and damage of its property to human excrement on and around properties”.

In a letter to the licensing committee, Keith Lilley, director of estates and facilities management, adds: “The introduction of alcohol sales in this location and at a such a late time will encourage further activities of this nature.

“The sale of alcohol without the University policy of the responsible retailing of alcohol will encourage further binge drinking and both affect public safety and increase the instances of public nuisance.”

While the University patrols the area, it fears the supermarket’s proposed hours will have the “negative effect” of attracting a more diverse range of customers to a “remote” part of the campus late at night.

Sainsbury’s is asking the council for a licence for one of its neighbourhood stores that will allow 24 hour opening and alcohol to be sold between 6am and midnight.

It says it will operate CCTV, train staff to ask for age verification and erect signs asking customers to leave quietly.

Councillors are due to consider the application on Tuesday, when they will be told of the University’s “major concerns” that a 24-hour supermarket will cause problems for student and public safety.

For more than 30 years, the building has been used as a bank, latterly by HSBC, which attracted customers mainly on foot, and has been in keeping with the surrounding uses, it is argued.

Now one of the University’s main worries is traffic, especially with students using the Information Commons at Brook Hill roundabout 24 hours a day.

Not only will there be an increase in traffic at an already difficult junction, but there is no area for the loading and unloading of vehicles.

The Upper Hanover Street scheme – near the University Supertram stop – is one of a number drawn up by Sainsbury’s as it seeks to open more neighbourhood convenience stores in Sheffield.

It already has council permission to convert the former Yates Wine Lodge at the corner of Carver Street and Division Street in the city centre.