How many civil servants does it take to level up Sheffield?
Plus, Whitworth transfers to The Tribune
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
It sounds like one of those terrible jokes. How many civil servants does it take to level up Sheffield? According to the government, that number could be close to 1,000, especially if we bring them together in a new “policy campus” based in the city centre. When the idea was unveiled last week by ministers, local leaders unsurprisingly hailed the move as a huge feather in the cap for our region. But can a few hundred civil servants really address the deep and long-standing inequalities that exist between London and places like Sheffield?
As well as that we have a lovely apartment in Tapton, a great photo from Arctic Monkeys’ gig Hillsborough Park on Saturday night, and Sheffield’s annual DocFest film festival starts on Wednesday.
Whitworth in The Tribune ✏️
We are over the moon to announce that we have just signed The Star’s former cartoonist Whitworth to do monthly cartoons for The Tribune (maybe more if we can). Sheffield-based artist James Whitworth’s cartoons have appeared in The Star for 10 years and we’re very proud to continue his long-standing association with local newspapers in Sheffield, albeit at a different title. We hope you enjoy them!
Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read, I went to watch the new series of Gladiators being filmed at Sheffield Arena, and learned more about how TV is made than I ever wanted to. Read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,467 paying members. For the first, our writer Daniel Timms went to Pitchblack Playback, a new “immersive listening experience” at the Curzon cinema in Sheffield. And for the second, I investigated mental health services in Sheffield and found a system failing the most vulnerable people in our city. An extract from that first piece is below:
The bass reverberates through my ribcage and spine, and the sound envelops me in a way that could be described as immersive. The song has all the dark glamour of a Bond theme, with sinuous orchestral strings and a churning undercurrent laced with foreboding. When the third track starts with crunchy piano chords the sound is so good it takes a mental effort not to believe there’s someone playing at the front of the room. Then multipart vocals cut in, and the acoustic is like being in a cathedral, the swelling of a choir in full voice.
This week we’ll send out two more including Victoria’s first story about the groups pioneering co-operative living in Sheffield, and another by me about what you might call the “sub-optimal” road and rail transport links between Sheffield and Manchester. 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).
Editor’s note: Normally we send out our second story of the week to members only, but last week it didn’t feel right to send our important piece about failing mental health services with a paywall. However, eleven new paying members still signed up, and I think that helps explain something important about how people think about The Tribune. That as well as getting extra editions, people join up because they value it and want it to continue. If you do too, please join us today.
This week’s weather ⛅
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say shallow low pressure, and associated thundery risks, clears to high pressure and settled conditions for the week ahead.
Monday ⛅🌩 A hot, humid, hazy and convective day with some sunshine but also the risk of an evening thunderstorm. Highs of 30°C.
Tuesday 🌤 More settled with cooling easterly breezes and long periods of hot sunshine. Isolated shower risk and highs of 28°C.
Wednesday ☀ Another fine and settled day with long periods of sunshine again. Dry throughout with light easterly breezes and highs of 26°C.
Thursday ☀ Set fair once more with sunny spells expected. Light winds from the east-southeast and temperatures rising to around 27°C.
Friday ☀ South-easterly breezes usher in another settled and sunny day. Dry throughout and highs around the 27°C mark again.
Outlook: A lot of fine and very warm weather is expected for the weekend. Just a chance of a thundery downpour by Sunday.
The big story: How many civil servants does it take to level up Sheffield?
Top line: Hundreds of civil servants are set to be transferred to Sheffield as part of the government’s Levelling Up drive. Will it work?
Critical mass: Last week, the government unveiled the Sheffield Policy Campus, a “first of its kind” scheme aimed at building a “critical mass of policymakers” in the city. Based at St Paul’s Place in the city centre, the campus will initially host around 1,000 policy-based civil servants.
As well as a Civil Service “Fast Stream” scheme pilot intended to ensure talented people don’t have to move to London to further their careers, there will also be internship placements for university students and expanded apprenticeships.
Speaking at the launch on Thursday, Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart MP said the new policy campus was “a commitment to the people of Sheffield that local people will have a central role to play in the development of major national policies.”
Whitehall North? Sheffield City Council leader Tom Hunt said the campus would enhance our status as the largest centre for policy making outside of London, with more than 1,000 people already working in policy roles across the Home Office, the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions. Sheffield also has one of the highest numbers of senior civil servants outside Whitehall, with 75 currently basing themselves in the city.
Levelling Up: The campus is part of the government’s “places for growth” programme, a scheme designed to support the government’s levelling up policy to address regional inequality. Under the plan, 22,000 civil service jobs will be moved out of London by 2030.
During past relocations, regional cities have often ended up with lower status and lower paid backroom staff like call centre workers rather than senior civil servants.
However, ministers point to more recent relocation studies that suggest that for every 1,000 civil service roles moved to a city, £30 million a year is added to its economy.
Will it work? A recent study by the respected thinktank the Institute for Government found that a similar scheme in the Darlington which moved Treasury roles to the County Durham town had been a success. The Darlington Economic Campus had, it said:
Helped to attract talented people from different backgrounds into central government, encouraged policy makers to contend with reality as experienced from a place outside London, increased local pride and provided a modest boost to the local economy.
However, the IfG also warned that while civil service relocation can help, if the government really wants to reduce regional economic inequality then it will ultimately have to rely on far more powerful levers than the dispersal of civil servants from London to the rest of the country.
Bottom line: While the government’s claims that civil service relocation will contribute to Levelling Up our region may be oversold — that doesn’t mean it is entirely a bad thing. The example of the Darlington Economic Campus shows relocation is a two way street. Having more decision makers based in Sheffield will undoubtedly be a good thing for our region. But including more voices from South Yorkshire and places like it should also make for better government too.
Home of the week 🏡
This two bedroom and two bathroom first floor Tapton flat is part of a converted school and is blessed with high ceilings and beautiful light throughout. It is on the market for £275,000.
Open newsroom 🗞️
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
Help us out: Do you have experience of travelling between Sheffield and Manchester regularly, either by road or rail? If you do please get in touch for a story we are planning this week about the “sub-optimal” transport links between two of the north’s biggest cities.
Our media picks 🎧
The Sheffield estate celebrated in song with glorious views and stark reminder of its past 🏢 A nice piece in The Star about Park Hill flats, which they say is “enjoying its moment in the spotlight fuelled by smash hit musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge”. Robert Cumber speaks to current residents on the complex about what it’s like to live there and its troubled past. But, as we found in our recent piece, there are tensions between the building’s past and present.
‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ 📺 The BBC interview the starts of the new series of The Full Monty, ahead of its debut on Disney+ this Wednesday. Star Robert Carlyle, who played unemployed steelworker Gaz in the original film, says the 1997 movie came out at a time of huge optimism. However, the new series brings the show into the present day and shows the characters struggling after a decade of austerity have led to crumbling public services.
What to look for in June 🌼 Our regular contributor David Bocking’s monthly look at what Sheffielders can expect to see in the great outdoors in June is always a fascinating read. This month we are told to look out for meadow flowers, damselflies and dragonflies, and the wonderfully named swollen-thighed beetle. There are also interesting fungi you can see this month including chicken of the woods, dryad’s saddle and the disturbingly phallic stinkhorn.
The big picture: ‘Put on your dancing shoes’ 🎸
There have been so many great photos of Arctic Monkeys’ two huge gigs at Hillsborough Park over the weekend that it’s been difficult to choose just one. However, this one of the ecstatic crowd on Saturday is my favourite. Many thanks to Nicola Squires for letting us use it. Also, for some amazing aerial shots of the concert, check out the steelcitydronepilot and drone__explorerdji on Instagram.
The gigs seem to have gone down well, with lots of fans pleased to hear the band play some of their best known songs. However, some were disappointed that the famously taciturn Alex Turner didn’t engage with the crowd more, a take which prompted one withering response on Twitter. “Some people actually paid £70 to go see Arctic Monkeys expecting Turner to stand there and do an emotional reading about Sheffield and shower himself in Hendos relish,” wrote Tom Scott. “They’ve been going for 20 years, this is what they’ve always been like…”
Things to do 📆
Film 🍿 Starting on Wednesday, 14 June is Sheffield DocFest, the UK’s leading festival of factual filmmaking. Now in its 30th year, this theme of this year’s festival is sparking curiosity, with films presented under six strands: rhythms, debates, people and community, memories, rebellions and journeys. The wonderful listings site Our Favourite Places have compiled this handy list of their top picks from this year’s programme. DocFest runs until Monday, 19 June.
Theatre 🎭 On Thursday, 15 June, a special abridged version of the celebrated 2022 play Jews. In Their Own Words is coming to the Crucible Playhouse. An incisive, provocative and necessary work, the play is based on interviews author and journalist Jonathan Freedland did with 12 British Jews, which combine to expose the roots and damning legacy of antisemitism throughout our society. The performance will be followed by a discussion with Freedland himself.
Exhibition 🏳️🌈 In celebration of Pride Month, fashion designer Mason Kane Thomas presents an exhibition at Exchange Place Studios drawing on his experiences as a queer person. The free exhibition features playful nods to contemporary queer culture alongside work inspired by historical LGBT+ trailblazers. Exchange Place Studios is open from Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday from 12pm-5pm. The show runs until Saturday, 1 July.