Just another Northern Industrial Town?

11 Jan 2011 by Karl Hallam

Billy Bragg name checked Sheffield in his 1996 song 'Northern Industrial Town'. At the moment a lot of businesses in Sheffield seem to be closing down. Nearby old workshop style premises seem be emptying and little cafes that supplied their workers are closing too. There also seems to be less traffic on the road, which would be a positive if it was not another sign of reduced economic activity. There is also the possibility, suggested to us by a colleague, that the deterioration of the road surface that has happened with two tough winters is putting off people from clunking their cars along them?

Of course the above is all about an impression of what is going on. Looking at some data might suggest otherwise. Recent reports suggest a manufacturing recovery in the UK overall, but what about the regional breakdown of that trend. Is it equal or is the north getting left behind? The north never caught up with the south during a decade of boom and perhaps never will. Does this matter? If it matters whose responsibility is it to do something about it? 

The government has its Regional Growth Fund and localism, so maybe they would argue they are giving local bodies the tools and permission to take action. But, which bodies are to take the lead? The LEPs are still bedding in and councils are just trying to cope with the impact of their hefty budget cuts ... which are generally greater in the north too. 

These big economic issues seem to be taking a back seat as the media obsess about the problems faced by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband and yet both of them need revival at in the regions if they are to stay in their jobs for a decent period. Control Orders and Student Fees matter, but will not determine whether big cities like Sheffield can survive these tough times.

Lets hope that the coalition sees Sheffield as more than just another Northern Industrial Town. 






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