'In the current climate it's a catastrophic mistake'

Plus, a new food hall opens in Orchard Square

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to this week’s Tribune briefing.

This week we take a look at the end of the furlough scheme and what impact it might have in Sheffield. We also have all our usual updates and recommendations including a new food hall with Portuguese, Peruvian, Thai and Sri Lankan cuisine.

Our superb weekend read about Sheffield’s Somali population by Sophie Atkinson was a wonderfully humane look at an underreported part of the city. You can still read that story here.

Last week we sent our members stories about efforts to rewild northern Sheffield and a family’s search for answers at an inquest (one member wrote on Facebook: “Love this — I subscribed after getting the newsletter. So interesting).

This week we’ve got a great story about the Sheffield-based weatherman taking aim at the media’s love of hyperbolic heatwave stories and another piece about the future of Sheffield city centre. To get both those stories and be one of the early patrons of our new approach to quality journalism in South Yorkshire, join up as a member now with the button below. It costs less than £1.50 a week if you join for a year (£70).

This week’s weather

The big story: The end of furlough

Top line: The government’s coronavirus job retention scheme — or furlough as everyone else calls it — comes to an end this week. But with thousands of workers still on it in Sheffield, what will happen when the support is withdrawn?

Background: The furlough scheme was first announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on March 20, 2020, three days before the first Covid lockdown. Since then the scheme has been extended six times, but will finally come to an end on Thursday, September 30.

Data: Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 85,700 workers have received furlough payments in Sheffield. No data is available on how much money has been spent in Sheffield, although it will be in the hundreds of millions of pounds.

  • The number of claims in Sheffield has come down considerably this year, but at July 31 still stood at 10,960 — around 7.5% of the city’s total workforce.

  • These include 1,940 accommodation and food services jobs, 1,930 manufacturing jobs and 1,520 wholesale and retail jobs (including repair of motor vehicles).

National context: 11.6m jobs have been supported by the furlough scheme across the UK since the beginning of the pandemic, costing the government £66bn. The huge sum represents around one fifth of the money the country has spent on the response to Covid.

Off the cliff edge: Up until June, the government was still paying 80% of employees’ wages for hours not worked, up to a total of £2,500.

  • However, in July this reduced to 70% up to a value of £2,187.50, with employers making up the additional 10% of their employees’ wages.

  • In August and September this was reduced further to 60% with employers making up 20% of their workers’ wages, but will be completely cut at the end of this month.

A “catastrophic mistake”: Concerns about this “cliff edge” withdrawal of support have been raised by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts. Mr Betts said the withdrawal should continue to be tapered to ensure jobs are retained throughout what is expected to be a difficult winter. He said:

The total ending of furlough, in the current climate, is a catastrophic mistake. We face an uncertain winter with Covid-19, and a dire economic situation.

1.7 million were still on furlough in August, and the Government should not just allow that number to become unemployed overnight against a backdrop of a cost of living crisis, tax hike and Universal Credit cut.

Bottom line: It has been predicted that 710,000 jobs across the country could be at risk when the scheme ends, thousands of which are likely to be in Sheffield. The economy is still not fully over Covid and last week the Yorkshire Post reported that foodbanks in Sheffield were already reporting record demand. The furlough scheme has to come to an end at some point, but many will question whether now is the time to turn off the taps completely. 

If you’re currently on furlough or would like to contribute to a piece on the effect of its withdrawal, please email editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk.

Sheffield half returns

The Sheffield Half Marathon returned yesterday after a year off due to Covid. Thousands of runners completed the beautiful but brutal 13.1 miles from Sheffield city centre up to Ringinglow and back again, with the race being won by Andrew Heyes of the Hallamshire Harriers in an astonishing course record of 01:06:04. The women’s race was won by Caroline Brock of the Steel City Striders in a very impressive 01:21:27.

Covid-19 update

Cases: Sheffield’s case rate — the number of positive cases per 100,000 population over seven days — is now 298, an increase of 5.4% or 90 cases on last week. The England case rate stands at 302.6, 14% higher than it was last week.

Hospitals: 103 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospital in Sheffield, a fall of seven from last week. Of these 15 are on ventilation, an increase of two from seven days ago. Six deaths linked to the virus have taken place in the last week.

Vaccines: 756,145 vaccine doses have now been given out in Sheffield, including 394,752 first doses and 361,393 second doses. Booster jabs are now being rolled out in many areas, including at the Manor Park Medical Practice in S2.

Our favourite reads

  1. Looking Up Sheffield’s latest piece is a fascinating story about a new housing development Kelham Island. Dun Works has been built by the South Yorkshire Housing Association on the site of fastener firm Williams Brothers, with parts of the new building being built with materials salvaged from the former factory. Interestingly, SYHA has partnered with Cheyne Capital Management’s Social Property Impact Fund on the project, in a first deal of its kind for a housing association.

  2. This is a thought-provoking piece in light of our recent story about reusing old buildings rather than knocking them down for new ones. The BBC report that Britain’s top engineers are urging the government to stop buildings being demolished, saying more effort should be put into adapting them so that the carbon that has gone into their creation is not lost. In Sheffield, the old Hallam Tower hotel was knocked down only to be replaced by an almost identical building a few years later.

  3. Former Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara appeared via video link at magistrates’ court on Friday to face charges of fraud, with the case being immediately sent to Sheffield Crown Court to be heard on October 25. For a good summary of the entire sorry tale from O’Mara’s unexpected win in 2017 to the 2019 general election, this Vice piece makes for interesting reading. The story also features Gareth Arnold, O’Mara’s former “chief of staff” who now finds himself accused of fraud alongside his former boss.

  4. Another great BBC piece about something that will be familiar to anyone who has ever travelled by train on the Hope Valley line to Manchester. Cowburn Tunnel runs beneath Kinder Scout and Mam Tor and at 241m deep is the UK’s deepest rail tunnel. When Network Rail recently updated a shaft which connects the tunnel to the surface after water began to damage the brickwork, staff were lowered in a customised cradle similar to those used by their Victorian predecessors 127 years ago.

  5. Anyone who lives in Sheffield knows we have a problem with drug gangs and violence. This brilliant recent piece in Vice delves deeper into the issue, speaking to current and former police officers and Sheffield councillor Ben Miskell, whose Arbourthorne ward has been particularly troubled by violence in recent years. Councillor Miskell tells reporter Mattha Busby that given the continuing problems, he believes now might be the time for a “radical rethink on national drugs policy”.

Goodbye to the bears

It will be sad to see them go but the Bears of Sheffield sculpture trail comes to an end this week. The bears will begin to be taken down on Wednesday, two and a half months after 160 of them were dotted around the city in aid of Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Almost £4,000 has been raised for The Children’s Hospital Charity so far with the campaign, but much more is to come when the bears are auctioned off in October. When the Herd of Sheffield elephants were auctioned off in 2016, it raised over £400,000.

After being removed from their plinths the bears will make their way to Meadowhall for a “goodbye weekend” from October 14-17, when all 60 of the big bears will be seen together in public for the first time. The auction will take place at the Crucible on October 18.

Things to do

Food: Sheffield has recently become a bit of a Mecca for foodhalls, with both Kommune in Castlegate and Cutlery Works in Neepsend becoming incredibly popular. The city’s latest — Sheffield Plate — opened last week in Orchard Square featuring Peruvian, Portuguese, Sri Lankan and Thai cuisine. For a preview see this piece from The Star.

Art: Art gallery Bloc Projects on Eyre Street has a new exhibition of work by the sculptor Dominique White. Becoming fugitive state is a collection of drawings and scupltures based on the artist’s interest in shipwrecks and runs until October 23. I dreamt I saw an azure sky by Sheffield-based artist Siân Williams can also be seen on the “Bloc Billboard” outside the gallery.

Learn: To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, the Twentieth Century Society is putting on a study day at Victoria Hall on Thursday, September 30 (10am-5pm). Attendees will hear from festival experts and have the chance to see an exhibition of items from Sheffield Hallam University’s collection. A drinks reception will take place at Crucible Corner after the event.

Listen: To mark the sad death of Cabaret Voltaire founder Richard H Kirk, BBC Radio 6 Music have put together this excellent playlist of the musician’s work with the pioneering Sheffield band and as a solo artist. Introduced by broadcaster and fan Stuart Maconie, the playlist includes seven songs from the back catalogue of a man described as a “towering musical genius”.

Watch: In 1965, German documentary maker Peter Nestler came to Sheffield to film a piece about a working men’s club. The film, Ein Arbeiterclub in Sheffield⁩‭, looks at the former Dial House Club in Wisewood, which has now been turned into flats. The documentary is now on YouTube and provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Sheffielders more than 50 years ago.

A people’s poem

If you’ve been in town recently, many of you will have seen the huge four-storey high poem that has been hoisted onto the side of the central library. Our Sheffield has been created from ideas dozens of different people put forward about why they love the city. These suggestions were then moulded into verse by Sheffield Libraries writer in residence Nik Perring. For more details on the project see here.