David Robinson edits new State of Sheffield 2018 report

The State of Sheffield is an annual stocktake of the city. It describes how things are, how they compare and how they’re changing.

sheffield city centre - peace gardens

Head of Department David Robinson has co-edited the new State of Sheffield 2018 report with Andrew Walshaw (Sheffield City Council). As well as editing the report, David wrote the introduction and spoke at the launch last week alongside Lord Blunkett about the shared challenges and opportunities facing the city. Here, David gives an overview of the report.

The State of Sheffield is an annual stocktake of the city. It describes how things are, how they compare and how they’re changing. The aim is to help Sheffield’s leaders understand more about the city, how it is changing and priorities for the future. It is an independent, objective review that draws on secondary data and relevant reports to explore a range of different themes each year. State of Sheffield is a collaborative report, drawing in authors from different sectors and organisations.

A theme running through State of Sheffield 2018 is the idea of inclusive growth. Sheffield, like many other towns and cities, is facing economic uncertainty and rising inequality at a time of austerity. Is this an inevitability; do we have any control over the city’s direction of travel? Is the city being shaped by forces beyond its control, or is it possible to respond with creativity and innovation to try and beat the odds? Can we work together to promote growth and create jobs and opportunities? The State of Sheffield 2018 explores these questions. In doing so, it recognises that growth alone is not enough.

All the evidence tells us that the benefits of economic growth in the UK over recent years has benefitted some people and places more than others. The real challenge is to promote growth and fairness; to promote economic growth that distributes the social and economic benefits of greater prosperity across society. For example, the challenge is not merely to connect people to new job opportunities through education and training but to make sure these opportunities offer decent pay and reasonable terms and conditions.

The State of Sheffield report explores these issues through five substantive chapters that focus on the following themes: Inclusive & Sustainable Economy; Involvement & Participation; Safety & Security; Social & Community Infrastructure; and Health & Wellbeing. These themes address the key foundations of inclusion and fairness, explore important facilitators, means and markers. Key headlines from the report include:

1) There are more and more people living in the city. Sheffield’s population in 2018 is 569,000 and is estimated to be around 620,000 by 2030.

2) Sheffield’s £11bn economy has continued to grow despite the recession in 2007/8 but the city’s productivity remains a key challenge. But, the growth in key sectors (e.g. advanced manufacturing and creative and digital), major investments from the likes of McLaren and Boeing, and the number of cranes on the skyline are testament to the changing face of the city.

3) Sheffield is performing increasingly well on broader measures of economic vibrancy. The Grant Thornton Vibrant Economy index shows that Sheffield out-performs other big cities, particularly in terms of dynamism and opportunity; resilience and sustainability; and community trust and belonging. However, Sheffield has particular challenges around inclusion and equality.

4) Austerity has put some of Sheffield vital public services under significant strain with Sheffield City Council’s core funding cut significantly between 2010 and 2018. Sheffield’s most important services are experiencing some of their toughest difficulties ever with more and more people needing increasingly complex support. The cuts have meant that this growing need is not being matched by the increased staffing, facilities or funding needed.

5) Sheffield is a safe city with a well-earned reputation for being a relatively low-crime place to live. Whilst crime risen in most urban centres, the rate of increase in Sheffield has been lower than most other cities.

6) The city’s social and community sector is active and makes a huge contribution to people and places across the city. There are 3,300 active voluntary and community groups active across the city – including charities, social enterprises and cooperatives - of which around 75% are small groups (with an annual income of less £10k).

7) We need to improve the health of the city if we want a more inclusive economy. Health and well-being informs engagement with the labour market and informs productivity. Mental and physical health issues continue to be a major barrier to more Sheffielders being in work and being out of work can exacerbate those problems as well as increasing inequalities. But, being in poor quality jobs can also damage people’s health. The growing number of insecure, short-term jobs with uncertain working hours – the gig economy - risks increasing stress and anxiety.

Read the report in full here.

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