'˜Resilient city faces profound changes' says new State of Sheffield 2016 report

Sheffield stands on the brink of '˜profound changes', a new report has predicted - with cuts to services, devolution, environmental issues and a larger population all posing challenges for the future.

Wednesday, 17th February 2016, 4:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2016, 4:40 pm
21 Nov 2013....Sheffield skyline SM1001/27a

The State of Sheffield 2016 report focuses on how the city could look in 2021.

Overall, the city has been ‘successful and resilient’ over the past half-decade, growing its economy, improving education, boosting residents’ health and offering high-quality cultural events, the annual study says.

The Sheffield skyline. Picture by Shaun Baldwin

But ‘some core challenges remain’, the report adds, and Sheffield needs to ‘accelerate progress’ in order to address them.

The population of the city is continuing to grow, and is predicted to rise by 62,000 over the next 20 years.

Residents are also living longer - it is estimated that nearly one in five will be aged over 65 by 2034.

Sheffield needs to make sure people of working age are not tempted to move away, recommends the report, which also cites worrying statistics about the unemployment rate among women.

The Sheffield skyline. Picture by Shaun Baldwin

The economy has strengthened in recent years, but there is a need to speed up business growth and for city leaders to exploit further the major role both universities play in employment, investment and development.

Inequality and poverty is on the increase, with a rise in the number of food banks ‘demonstrating that large numbers of Sheffield citizens are struggling’.

Providing more money to poorer areas, or identifying ‘priority groups’ of residents are suggested as possible solutions.

“A city that has large numbers of financially insecure citizens, who perhaps see no clear future for themselves or their children, will not be a successful city,” says the report by Sheffield First Partnership, which co-ordinates the work of public, private and voluntary sectors.

The number of children meeting the expected standard of development at the age of five increased between 2013 and 2015 - however, Sheffield has a higher proportion of youngsters than the national average showing a low level of progress.

The standard of the local environment will continue to be seen as a major asset. However, air quality is ‘unacceptably poor’ - mostly down to heavy traffic and congestion - and cuts will put ‘huge strain’ on maintaining public spaces.

Climate change will carry on having an impact, bringing a greater risk of extreme weather and flooding, while the need for more housing means the city ‘must consider expanding into its Green Belt’.

Reductions to council and NHS budgets are one of the biggest challenges, warns the report, adding: “These cuts are so significant that public services will not be able to remain the same.”

Greater use of technology, more commercialisation and outsourcing and ‘new models of public delivery’ need to be considered, the study recommends.

Co-author Gordon Dabinett, professor of regional studies at Sheffield University, said the report was ‘not a performance review, and not a comment on Government policy’.

“Most things don’t change year by year. At a minimum it is five years, mostly 20 years. Many of the things we see are the legacy of past behaviour and structures such as industrial decline.”

Level of deprivation falls in over a quarter of neighbourhoods

More than a quarter of Sheffield neighbourhoods have improved and are now ‘relatively less deprived’ than in 2010.

Firth Park, Burngreave, Manor Castle, Southey and Arbourthorne are the most deprived areas of the city - a situation the State of Sheffield 2016 report says has not changed since 2010.

However, both Manor and Abourthorne have moved to a lower ranking in the Indices of Deprivation, which are based on factors such as income, education and crime.

There are also ‘distinct pockets’ of deprivation in other areas of the city: Beauchief and Greenhill, Gleadless Valley, Richmond - pictured above - and Walkley.

Ecclesall, Fulwood, Dore, Totley and Crookes show ‘relatively low’ levels of deprivation.

Child obesity figures a pointer to future health

The number of schoolchildren aged 10 and 11 who weigh too much has gone up in Sheffield, says a report.

“In two of the last five years, Sheffield has had higher rates of overweight and obese 10-11 year olds than the regional and national average, although at this stage it would be too early to suggest an increasing trend,” it adds.

The annual study says the figures are useful when determining the future health of Sheffield residents, as ‘developing good habits of eating and exercise at an early age can have a long-term positive impact on healthy weight throughout life’.

In 2014-15, the most recent year for which figures are available, just over 34 per cent of children aged 10 and 11 weighed too much - up slightly on the year before.

At ages four and five, rates of overweight or obese children have declined from 22.7 per cent in 2010-11 to 20.6 per cent in 2014-15.

However, this combined measure hides a 1.7 per cent increase in four and five-year-olds who are overweight compared to 2013-14.

Figures were gathered using the National Child Measurement Programme, which has a ‘very high’ participation rate in Sheffield.

Sixty workplaces employ over 250

Sheffield’s economy is still growing - but ‘structural weaknesses, largely historic in origin’ persist.

Last year there were 14,200 public and private enterprises in the city, with 85 per cent employing 10 or fewer people.

Sixty enterprises employed over 250 people - the same as Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle and Nottingham, but much fewer than Birmingham and Leeds, with both having 140 enterprises of this size.

The report says economic activity rose between 2003 and 2013, and that economic output per head stood at £19,958 in 2014.

More women out of work

More women are unemployed than men in Sheffield, the report reveals.

In 2014, some 141,000 male residents were in employment, compared to 123,000 women, while the overall unemployment rate among men was 6.4 per cent, compared to nine per cent among women.

“This is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the female rate being higher only since 2013,” said the report.

The trend may reflect gender patterns linked to occupations, and the fortunes of different job sectors in recent years.