Improving education and skills for young people, franchising buses, and driving growth in Sheffield’s city centre should be the new Mayor of South Yorkshire’s top priorities for 2022, according to a report published by Centre for Cities today (Monday 25th April).
Enacting these policies would play a vital role in levelling up the region by developing a high-skilled workforce, improving transport links, and boosting the economic performance of its urban areas.
The report, entitled South Yorkshire Metro Mayor: Three Policy Priorities for 2022, comes as voters across the combined authority prepare to head to the polls on Thursday 5 May.
The new mayor’s immediate priorities should be to:
1. Improve education and skills for young people across South Yorkshire
Currently, every local authority across the South Yorkshire area performs below the national average in school achievement. For example, 47 per cent of students in England achieved at least a grade 5 in both their English and maths GCSEs in 2019, but only 42 per cent of students in Barnsley, 39 per cent of students in Sheffield, 34 per cent of students in Rotherham, and 33 per cent of students in Doncaster did so.
While the new mayor of South Yorkshire will not have any direct powers over schools, they should use their high profile position to champion the improvement of primary and secondary education attainment. This can be done by:
2. Franchise the bus system
Unreliable bus services are a major problem across South Yorkshire, where the current privatised system has led to a lack of services, fragmented routes and expensive journeys.
Franchising would allow the new mayor to coordinate the routes, schedules and fares of the bus network, making bus travel more accessible and attractive for people living and working in South Yorkshire.
3. Ensure development in South Yorkshire supports growth in Sheffield’s city centre
Sheffield’s city centre is the largest and most economically productive urban area in South Yorkshire and contains a high concentration of high-skilled, well-paid jobs.
However, a lack of office space combined with poor transport links means it is underperforming in comparison to other cities across the UK – the total number of jobs in Sheffield’s city centre fell by two per cent between 1998 and 2015, while they grew by at least 25 per cent in other northern city centres, including Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.
A lack of quality public transport links is also damaging Sheffield, where just 35 per cent of residents can reach the city centre within 30 minutes by train, tram or bus.
Encouraging the construction of more office space in Sheffield’s city centre, while boosting demand for them by building housing near key transport routes, should be a key part of the new mayor’s strategy to drive growth and increase prosperity in South Yorkshire.
Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter said:
“As South Yorkshire emerges from the pandemic and grapples with a growing cost of living crisis, the new mayor will face huge challenges to repair the damage and get the region on the path to success.
“Whoever is elected on the 5th May will need to work closely with local businesses, councils and the Government to level up South Yorkshire by boosting skills, overhauling public transport, and driving growth in its urban areas.
“Failing to prioritise these policies will slow recovery and potentially hold South Yorkshire back from reaching its full potential as a hub of high-skilled, well-paid jobs.”
The report comes as Centre for Cities today launches its City Minutes: South Yorkshire Election Special podcast series, featuring interviews with mayoral candidates on their plans for the region.
The series will run as follows:
Notes to editors