12 years after austerity began, Sheffield makes more cuts
Plus, bringing the 'ruins and rubble' of S3 to life
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
The impact of 12 years of austerity in Sheffield can be seen everywhere you look. From cuts to youth clubs and libraries to huge backlogs in the housing and schools repair programme, council services are a shadow of what they once were. Now, after a new report laid bare the financial challenge still facing the council more than a decade after the cuts first began, the city is being asked to make even more cost savings. Today we look at the scale of the problem and the difficult decisions the council is likely to have to take.
As well as that we celebrate our region’s contribution to England’s phenomenal win in the Women’s Euros, plug a brilliant new book full of photos of Little Sheffield, and feature a story about a 70-year-old running world champion.
Catch up and coming up
For our boozy weekend read, Dani Cole took a tour around the lost pubs of Sheffield’s East End — and made a few new friends along the way. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 747 paying members. The first was a lovely piece by Dani about the astonishing backstory of Tibor Killi, who fled Hungary in 1956 and created a cleaning empire in Sheffield. And the second by me was about how disabled parking in Sheffield is being affected by pedestrianisation and what we might do about it.
This week we’ll send out two more including a look at how Sheffield-born modernist designer David Mellor changed the face of modern Britain and another about a national food service which is run from a Sheffield social enterprise. To get both of those and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below.
Editor’s appeal: The Tribune now has almost 750 members, but the truth is we need many more. We’re still operating on just one full time member of staff with the rest of our content coming from freelancers. Subscribing costs £1.34 a week if you pay upfront for the year and will help us grow into a news source that can take on more ambitious stories. Thank you.
The big picture: Football (finally) comes home ⚽
Millie Bright (pictured) was one of three local players who were part of England’s amazing victory in the Women’s Euros yesterday. Chelsea defender Bright and Man City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck both grew up in Killamarsh while striker Beth England (who also now plays for Chelsea in the Women’s Super League) is from Barnsley. All three came through the Sheffield United Academy.
This week’s weather 🌥️
Dedicated Sheffield weather forecaster Steel City Skies is taking a well-deserved holiday at the moment, but has still managed to send us a slightly shorter update than usual this week. They say:
Monday ⛅The week starts with a warm and moist airmass over the UK, bringing settled conditions.
Tuesday 🌦️ Cloud increases overnight with a risk of rain that persists as a shower threat. Breezier from the southwest, too
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday ⛅ An improving trend on Wednesday before cooler and fresher weather arrives on Thursday and Friday, with high pressure, sunny spells, lighter winds and only isolated showers.
Outlook 😎 The settled weather is expected to last into the weekend as well with temperatures close to average.
The big story: 12 years after austerity began, Sheffield makes more cuts
Top line: Sheffield City Council’s most senior finance officer has delivered a grim assessment of the authority’s perilous financial situation. How bad could it get?
Background: A story by local democracy reporter Molly Williams last week revealed that council finance director Ryan Keyworth told the finance sub-committee that the £25 million they had set aside for budget overspends was now all gone with eight months of the financial year still to come.
Mr Keyworth said that spending this year would now have to be monitored much more closely and that the 2023/24 budget would need to find either more in savings or more ways to generate income if the council was going to cover its costs.
Lib Dem leader and committee member Shaffaq Mohammed said the £15 million in savings not taken up by Labour and the Greens last year (including cutting expensive home packages for social care) would probably be on the table again soon.
A government take-over? Councillor Mohammed withdrew from the running for council leader in May because of the budget situation. In an indication of just how serious it is, he said government commissioners could soon be called in to run the council. He said:
In the next few weeks you’re going to hear how serious the budget deficit is. If we do not resolve our budget deficit…there is a real danger commissioners appointed by a Conservative government may come and take over, and I will never allow that while I am here.
Austerity without end: Sheffield’s council’s spending power has reduced by 29% or £211m over the last 12 years — the equivalent of £828 per household. At the same time, an ageing population means the council spends a far greater share of its income on social care than it used to, increasing by 8% per year over the last five years. A series of reviews commissioned as part of the 2022/23 budget will look for further savings in areas including early intervention for children and families, financial hardship support, library services and council buildings.
National context: Sheffield City Council is far from alone in having financial difficulties. Since 2018, several councils in England have actually declared bankruptcy including Northumberland, Croydon, Nottingham, Northamptonshire and Slough.
A report on the BBC website on Saturday said Slough could be forced to increase council tax by between 12% and 20% and has been told to sell all its 6,700 council houses plus a number of sites earmarked for housebuilding.
However, the report says that even if the council successfully sells these assets it might not be enough to save them, with everything the borough owns except the town’s roads and parks reported to be “on the table”.
The impact of inflation: Like the rest of us, local councils are struggling with rising costs as well. In June, the cross-party Local Government Association said that a £2.4billion shortfall caused by rising inflation could make many council services unviable and lead to more local authorities going bankrupt unless the government were to offer emergency funding.
Bottom line: Some council bankruptcies have been the result of bad management, which thankfully doesn't seem to be the case in Sheffield. But even in well-led authorities there is only so far that not enough money will get you, and the added pressures of Covid and inflation have only made things worse. An improved funding settlement for local government is desperately needed — but that doesn’t seem likely at the moment.
Home of the week 🏡
The fact a one-bedroom house on Psalter Lane is on the market for £300,000 gives you an indication of how hot the housing market is in Sheffield at the moment. It’s lovely, but pricey.
Our favourite reads 📚
From disqualified at 15 to world champion at 70 🏃♀️ A nice piece in The Star by David Bocking about Dot Kesteven, a 70-year-old Sheffield woman who despite being put off athletics as a teenager has become a world champion in her retirement. Dot quit running at 15 after getting disqualified from a race but the former PE teacher started running again 14 years ago and in July became the over-70s women’s 10,000 metre world champion.
A flower garden for women 🌷A nice accompaniment to our Manor Fields piece from last week is this lovely interview in Now Then with one of the people behind Bloom, a women’s community garden which promotes positive mental health through therapeutic horticulture. The garden, which is based at Heeley and Meersbrook allotments, runs twice weekly open days as well as six-week long gardening for mental health groups throughout the year.
Pythons found in popular Sheffield park 🐍 The Yorkshire Post reports the concerning news that three snakes normally found in Africa have been discovered in Graves Park. The Royal Pythons are thought to have been left there by owners who can no longer look after them. They have now been taken to specialist shop Snakes and Adders in Intake, whose owner Charles Thompson said 10 snakes had been dumped in Sheffield in the last eight weeks.
‘Bringing ruins and rubble to life’ 📸
Photographer Martin Dust has a new book out filled with beautiful shots of “Little Sheffield” — the area of the city centre around the River Don, Wicker and West Bar. From skeletal pubs to half-hidden bridges and workshops that once rang with industrial noise, the book brings the ruins and rubble of S3 to life. Get Little Sheffield on his website from Friday.
Things to do 📆
Tour 🦋 Kelham Island’s “goit” (a man-made water channel) dates back to Norman times and the start of industry in Sheffield, when it diverted water from the River Don to the town’s corn mill. On Tuesday, August 2 from 1.00pm-2.00pm, Dave Buttle from the University of Sheffield will lead a free tour hoping to discover some of the diverse botany and wildlife which call the area home — from ferns to fish and even the odd amphibian too. Book here.
Theatre 🎭 A new time-travelling comedy from Sheffield People’s Theatre sees five strangers transported 100 years into the future after getting in a elevator. The apocalypse has happened, division is rife, three-winged birds fly overhead and people seem to be getting high on cups of tea. Can five idiots in a lift save the day? How a city can save the world is on from Wednesday, August 3 until Saturday, August 6 at the Crucible’s Studio Theatre.
Cinema 🍿 The ever-popular Village Screen outdoor cinema returns to Kenwood Hall this week with four more classic films you can enjoy under the stars. The al-fresco movies start on Thursday, August 4 with Grease, followed by The Full Monty on Friday, Dirty Dancing on Saturday and Jurassic Park on Sunday. As well as the films there will also be great musical entertainment, street food and a fully stocked bar. Tickets are £16 and doors open at 7.30pm.
A moment in time 📽️
During a Heritage Lottery Fund sponsored project to professionally archive the 98-year-long history of the CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire, a dusty box containing an old film canister was discovered. After it was sent off to the Yorkshire Film Archive, it was found to contain the only known footage of the organisation’s founder Ethel Haythornthwaite.
What’s more is that it captures the moment in September 1936 that Surprise View was handed over to the National Trust. Ethel (whose surname was then Gallimore) had bought the land using her own money and fundraising to give to the National Trust for people to use. Her work led to the creation of Sheffield’s Green Belt and the Peak District National Park.