Exclusive: Stocksbridge was given £20 million of Levelling Up money. Where has it gone?
Plus, tributes paid to Bob Kerslake
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today’s big story is about public money, and people’s right to know how it is spent. In 2020, Stocksbridge was awarded £20 million from the Towns Fund, one part of the government’s high-profile Levelling Up policy. Part of this was earmarked for a cycling trail along the River Don that would link Sheffield city centre with the Peak District. But almost three years on there has been little progress and campaigners are worried that they’ll never see the money after all. Today we ask: what’s going on with the Stocksbridge Town Deal?
As well as that we have a property with bags of development potential in the city centre, sad news about a former senior Sheffield council official, and the most successful rock and roll musical ever comes to the Lyceum.
Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read, Victoria looked at both the troubled past and contested future of Sheffield Pride, which hasn’t taken place now for five years. You can still read that piece here.
Last week I was off but The Tribune operated like a well-oiled machine in my absence, sending out two great newsletters to our now 1,500 paying members! In the first I told the story of the 300 Chilean refugees who came to Sheffield after the country’s military coup in 1973. And in the second Victoria looked at why the University of Sheffield has banned two students from campus for holding up a banner. An extract from that second piece is below.
What makes this change particularly bitter to see is that Sheffield is where the two of them first discovered their passion for activism. The campus has a long history of left-wing politics, particularly in its student union. “Back in the 60s, when Malcolm X visited Britain, he only gave three speeches and one was at Sheffield student union,” Riley says. “It’s been a big political institution in the past but at the minute it feels like you couldn’t do anything like that.”
This week we’ll send out two more including an in depth look at the new plans for Cole Brothers and another about the rivers hidden beneath Sheffield city centre and how opening them up again could help in the fight against climate change. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield based on subscriptions rather than clickbait, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs £1.34 a week if you pay for 12 months up front (23p a day).
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The big picture: Making a splash 💦
This stunning photograph of some early morning action taking place at Redmires reservoir was captured by Sheffield Instagram snapper Rob Dinwoodie on Sunday.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say the week will stay unsettled with showers or longer periods of rain, perhaps easing after midweek with temperatures recovering.
Monday 🌦⚡️ Unsettled with showers merging to longer spells of rain at times, possibly turning thundery later. Breezy and cool with highs of 18°C
Tuesday 🌦 Further scattered showers — some with thunder — developing across the country. Brighter periods too, with the cool feel continuing. Highs of 18°C
Wednesday 🌦 While there will still be some embedded disturbances in the low pressure, more of us will escape with a drier and sunnier day. Highs of 19°C
Thursday ⛅ A ridge of high pressure will be more influential across the south and east of the UK, ensuring a greater chance of a dry and fine day. Highs of 21°C.
Friday 🌦 Less certain here as our upper trough threatens showers but also continues to drag up warmer and more humid air. Warmer but still the risk of downpours. Highs of 23°C.
Outlook: Low confidence by the weekend, with the threat of warmer and more humid air bringing the heat back, balanced against an ongoing risk of showers and thunderstorms.
Exclusive: Stocksbridge was given £20 million of Levelling Up money. Where has it gone?
Top line: Campaigners are calling for an “independent and open review” of the governance and management of the Stocksbridge Town Deal, amid concerns about the transparency and accountability of the board set up to spend £20 million of Levelling Up money.
Background: Stocksbridge’s £20 million Town Deal Bid was approved by the government in 2020. The approved bid included projects focused on the Manchester Road shopping centre, skills, sporting and play facilities, health, active travel and public transport projects. On active travel, the bid included an ambitious plan to substantially complete the Upper Don Trail, a 23km walking and cycling route linking Sheffield city centre with the Peak District.
Cost inflation: In June 2022, the Upper Don Trail Trust were assured by Sheffield City Council that the scheme was “locked down and in budget”. Yet only one month later the Stocksbridge Town Deal board was advised that the trail project was now significantly over budget. A report to the December 2022 board said the trail would now cost £4.3m against a budget of £2.75m, but no explanation was offered of how this 62% cost increase had been calculated.
Since then, requests from stakeholders for an explanation and breakdown of the increased costs have been ignored and requests to meet with the council’s programme manager have not been acknowledged.
A Freedom of Information request submitted in December 2022 is still outstanding in breach of an instruction from the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the case has been referred to the relevant ombudsman.
Scope creep: In a short online video meeting in January 2023, the council’s programme manager conceded that a large sum to be paid to the council’s private sector partner Amey for maintenance of the Holmes Farm Bridge was probably a major factor in the cost increase. The trust describes this money as unjustified “scope creep” for the Stocksbridge Town Deal money.
Under review: Minutes from the March 2023 board (the latest that have been made public) say the trail project is currently “under review”, a process which is due to be concluded this month. The minutes go on to say “the board felt strongly that the outputs of the project could be achieved for greater value for money with a greater relevance to Stocksbridge”. But there has been no further explanation of what this means or contact with stakeholders to discuss alternative options.
Transparency and accountability: The Upper Don Trail Trust say they have “serious concerns” about the transparency and accountability of the Town Deal Board. The board is made up of officers from Sheffield City Council, Stocksbridge Town Councillors and other local figures, including the town’s MP. The body has failed to publish any agendas, reports or minutes since March as it is required to do by the government and the council.
Supporter of the trail Chris Bell was forced to resign from the board in December 2022 after he attended a council meeting where questions were asked about the trails project. The explanation given was that he was not a Stocksbridge resident.
The board is chaired by Miriam Cates MP and also includes her husband David Cates, who is also not a Stocksbridge resident. The minutes also record that Matt Dixon, a local Conservative Party agent, attends for reasons which are not clear.
Our take: Inflation is affecting all construction projects at the moment, in both the public and private sectors. But it feels like something more is going on here. The STD board has been given £20 million of public money and people have a right to know how it is making decisions. The UDTT say they are open to phasing the work or exploring additional funding sources, but are now worried the £2.75 million of Levelling Up money they were promised is in danger of being lost. Since taking office, Sheffield City Council’s new leadership has championed a spirit of openness and collaboration. In this spirit, an independent and open review of the governance and management of the Stocksbridge Town Deal is urgently required.
To find out more visit the Sheaf and Porter River Trust’s website.
Home of the week 🏡
This two-storey former industrial building on Brown Street consists of offices, store rooms and a courtyard, and has bags of development potential. It is on the market for £550,000.
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Our media picks 🎧
Lord Kerslake obituary 🏛️ Over the weekend social media has been awash with tributes to former Sheffield City Council CEO Bob Kerslake, who died on Saturday after a short battle with cancer. In 1997, Kerslake came into an authority in crisis, crippled by the debt from the World Student Games. However, by the time he left 11 years later, the council’s finances had been stabilised. He went on to lead the civil service and was also a member of the House of Lords.
That those leaving tributes to Bob Kerslake yesterday included David Blunkett, Oliver Coppard, Tom Hunt, Sadiq Khan, David Cameron and countless other national and local officials is a good indication of the esteem in which he was held. He was also a champion of arts organisations including the Crucible and S1 Artspace, who said he was “one of the kindest, generous and committed public servants” and that they would miss his “endless words of support and advice”. For more tributes, see this piece on the BBC website.
'No magic wand' to end homelessness 💷 Experts have warned Prince William that money alone won’t bring an end to homelessness in Sheffield. Last week the royal was in the city to launch his Homewards scheme, a strategy aimed at ending homelessness in the UK within five years. However, while welcoming the extra money and the Prince’s commitment to the cause, experts from the Archer Project and Ben’s Centre said there were no easy answers.
Pete McKee reveals love story in new exhibition 🖼️ A nice piece in the Yorkshire Post about Pete McKee’s new exhibition Frank and Joy — A Love Story. The show, which will take place in November at Trafalgar Warehouse, focuses on the characters from Pete’s famous mural The Snog, but also reflects on the importance of pubs. The exhibition will be previewed at next weekend’s Pub Crawl at Fagan’s, The Bath Hotel, The Brothers Arms, The Greystones.
Things to do 📆
Talk 🏳️🌈 On Tuesday, 4 July at Weston Park Museum, Join SAYIT's Fiona Moorcroft for a lunchtime talk uncovering the lives Northern queer elders in history. In the talk Fiona will explore the influence of Edward Carpenter’s lectures on sexuality and gender at the end of the 1800s, as well as looking at the fascinating lives of other historical figures like Halifax’s Anne Lister and Darfield’s Maurice Dobson. The 45-minute talk is free and starts at 1pm.
Theatre 🎭 Beginning on Tuesday, 4 July at the Lyceum is Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story. This multi award-winning West End show, which first opened in 1989 and has been touring around the world ever since, tells the story of Holly’s life from his Texas rockabilly beginnings and international stardom up until his legendary final performance and death at the tragically young age of just 22. The show runs until Saturday, 8 July and tickets are priced £15-£55.
Tour 🏢 On Thursday, 6 July, join Sheffield Museums for a relaxed walking tour around the city centre and delve into the history of Sheffield's historic skyline. The 90-minute tour will give participants the chance to discover the history and stories behind both some of the oldest — and some of the biggest — buildings in our bustling city. Tickets are priced £8 and the tour will begin in the Millennium Gallery foyer at 2pm.