Introducing a ‘clean air charge’, addressing skills gaps and bolstering the city region’s commercial centres, should be top of the Sheffield City Region metro mayor’s to-do list when they take office in May this year.
This is according to new analysis published today by the think tank Centre for Cities, which sets out three policy priorities to help the new metro mayor hit the ground running from the start of their term.
Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The new metro mayor of the Sheffield City Region will have a unique opportunity to make a big difference on the issues that matter most to people’s day-to-day lives, such as housing, skills and transport.
“However, he or she will also face significant challenges, from establishing the mayoral office in the face of opposition from some quarters locally, to acting on his or her campaign pledges and preparing the city region for Brexit. To make a success of the role, it’s vital that the mayor acts quickly to address the most pressing issues that the city region faces.”
The Centre for Cities analysis includes one ‘quick policy win’ to set the tone for the mayor’s time in office, as well as a strategic objective and a long term vision to underpin the mayor’s time in office:
Priority one (quick policy win in early days of office):
Andrew Carter: “Pollution is a significant problem in the Sheffield city region, which is home to some of the highest levels of NO2 in the country, and has the highest share of residents commuting by car in the North of England. The new mayor can quickly make their mark by introducing a clean air charge in the city region’s most congested areas, such as the city centre of Sheffield, aimed specifically at the most polluting vehicles.
“This might be controversial with some drivers, but it would make a big difference in improving air quality. It would also generate much-needed funding which could be used to improving public transport links across the city region. In particular, the mayor could use this revenue and the newly devolved powers he or she will have to improve bus connections in the city region, and to encourage more people to use them.”
Priority two – a strategic aim:
Andrew Carter said: “The UK’s most prosperous cities are those which are able to attract large numbers of high skilled businesses to their city centres. However, the Sheffield City Region lags behind most of the rest of the country on this front. Around 39% of jobs in the city region are high skilled, whereas the national average is 45%.
“The mayor can help to address this problem by setting out a spatial plan which focuses on making the city centres of Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley more attractive to high skilled businesses – for example, by improving office space or strengthening transport infrastructure. Doing so will be crucial in bringing more high-paying jobs and opportunities to the city region.”
Priority three – a long term vision:
“One of the most important factors in determining a place’s prosperity is the skills levels of its residents, but it’s clear that the Sheffield City Region does not perform well on this front. For example, the proportion of residents across the city region who have no formal qualifications whatsoever is higher than the national average.
“Tackling this issue should be the new mayor’s key long-term goal. In particular, he or she should use the adult skills budget – one of the most important resources at their disposal – to help more working-age residents gain the skills they need to get into work. The mayor should also use their influence to encourage more take up of early years education support for young children across the city region, and to push for better numeracy and literacy attainment in local schools.”
Andrew Carter continued: “There’s a lot at stake for the new mayor. Showing that they mean business from day one will not only be vital in building trust with people who live and work in the area, it will also be crucial in realising their vision for the city region and securing the long term future of the mayoral office.”
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