Will austerity ever end in Sheffield?

Plus, when Bela Lugosi played Dracula at the Lycuem

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.

Today we take a look at Sheffield City Council’s parlous financial situation, after councillors appealed to the government to end the era of austerity. We also have an interesting read about the Town Hall’s clock tower and a new exhibition of still life paintings at Exchange Place Studios.

Our weekend read took a look at the runners and riders for the South Yorkshire Mayor’s job when Dan Jarvis steps down next May. You can still read that piece here.

Last week we sent our members a story about growing up on Sheffield’s Parson Cross estate and a lovely piece by Sophie Atkinson about the Graves Gallery’s £455,000 refurbishment, in which she got a tour of the newly arranged collection.

This week we’ll be sending out two more members’ stories, one about the man who built the Crucible Theatre and another about efforts to save Skye Edge. To get both those stories and help The Tribune fund more high quality journalism in Sheffield, join for less than £1.40 a week if you pay for a year.

This week’s weather

Or weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say “high pressure stays in control throughout the working week, centred across southern areas. Light breezes prevail with plenty of dry and bright weather on offer.”

Tuesday ☁️ largely cloudy with the low risk of drizzle over high ground. Breezy and cool with highs of 14°C.

Wednesday ⛅️ likely brighter than Tuesday as weak fronts clear. Some sunshine coming through and feeling a little milder as a result. Dry with highs of 16°C.

Thursday ⛅️ rinse and repeat with early low cloud occasionally breaking to brighter spells. A gradual cooling trend establishing again with highs of 15°C.

Friday ⛅️ déjà vu with cloudy spells during the morning gradually breaking up. Winds remaining light for most with dry conditions and highs of 15°C.

Weekend 💨 low pressure tries to make inroads from the Atlantic but much of the weekend may stay dry. Fronts could threaten with showers growing in coverage from the west for Sunday, with winds also picking up.

The big story: Will austerity ever end in Sheffield?

Top line: 11 years after the coalition government initiated major cuts to local government, Sheffield City Council is still having to find big savings. After the council reported a £44m shortfall last month, local leaders issued an urgent appeal to the government to increase funding to the city.

How much has been cut? A decade of cuts has seen the council lose almost 50% of its budget — an astonishing £475m over that period.

  • A January 2019 report found that austerity has had a “significant impact” on Sheffield’s people, communities and public services.

  • The report also found that the impact of cuts had been uneven, falling more heavily on poorer places and people.

The burden of the cuts has fallen disproportionately on poorer areas of Sheffield, such as the Manor estate, pictured. Photo: Richard Vince / Wikimedia Commons.

Council tax: Budget cuts and rising costs mean Sheffield has increasingly had to rely on Council Tax increases. But this has the effect of shifting resources from poorer to wealthier authorities. Surrey County Council (population 1.16m) raises over £7m for each 1% increase in Council Tax, whereas Sheffield City Council (population 580,000) raises just over £2m.

More cuts to come? By far the biggest expense for Sheffield City Council is social care. Without additional funding from the government, forecast increases to social care expenditure mean £82m worth of savings will have to be found from non-social care budgets over the next three years.

  • It would also effectively mean that for every pound of local taxation in Sheffield, over 75p would be spent on social care services in just four years’ time.

New funding: In September, the government announced a new health and social care levy. This will be funded largely by increasing national insurance contributions and will raise an extra £12bn per year. However, as the majority of the money will initially go to the NHS to help reduce the huge and growing waiting list backlog, some fear that this will mean social care will remain underfunded for years to come.

An opportunity for change? Last month, the government launched its twice-delayed comprehensive spending review which will set budgets for the next three years from 2022/23 to 2024/25. This will conclude in time for this month’s budget statement on October 27.

At the meeting of the full council last Wednesday, Gleadless Valley Councillor and executive member for finance and resources Cate McDonald urged the government to use the opportunity of the CSR to properly fund local government. She said:

After more than a decade of austerity, this council together with others is facing unprecedented pressure on our budgets. I am calling on the government to recognise the vital role of local government and use the spending review to come up with a solution to local government funding.

Bottom line: The Conservatives have declared austerity to be “over” multiple times over the past three years. But with services already cut to the bone, and the huge added costs of the Covid-19 pandemic, without a new and improved funding settlement for Sheffield City Council, the black hole in its finances is only going to get bigger.

Autumn in Norfolk Heritage Park

This stunning autumnal scene was captured by local democracy reporter Molly Williams in Norfolk Heritage Park. As she says, the park was one of the first to be open to the public for free and was later donated to the city of Sheffield by the Duke of Norfolk in 1910. It is one of the last remnants of the great deer park once associated with Sheffield Castle and Manor Lodge.

Covid-19 update

Cases: Sheffield’s Covid case rate — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — currently stands at 330.3, 37 cases or 1.9% down on last week. The current case rate for England is 341.3, a 0.1% increase on last week.

Hospitals: There are currently 85 patients being treated for Covid-19 in Sheffield hospitals, a big decrease on last week’s 102. Of these 11 are on ventilation, a fall of seven from last week. Seven deaths linked to the disease have taken place over the last week.

Vaccines: 768,606 vaccine doses have now been given out in Sheffield, including 400,557 first doses and 368,049 second doses. 407,150 booster jabs have also been given out in Yorkshire and the North East, while 2.3m have been given out across the country.

Our favourite reads

  1. We’ve recommended David Poole’s excellent Sheffielder blog before but his latest piece on Sheffield Town Hall’s clock tower is one of his best. Amazingly, the clock didn’t chime until 2002 as it had the striking mechanisms but no bell (it had been hoped that some benefactor would come forward but no one ever did). The chimes you hear today are from an electronic system inside the tower.

  2. This brilliant interview by Kate Mossman with Sheffield music legend Jarvis Cocker in the New Statesman is a cracker. As you would expect the piece looks at his 90s heyday as well as his infamous mooning of Michael Jackson at the 1996 Brits, but it also delves into his early life in Intake, his mum and dad and his politics. There are some lovely photos of him in the Peak District in the piece as well.

  3. A great story in The Star about a building at Sheffield General Cemetery that can now be rented out as an Airbnb. The Sexton’s lodge would once have housed 11 people in just two rooms, but after a tasteful £10,000 refurbishment the gatehouse can be rented out for £100 a night. Cemetery trustee Mick Claxton said bookings were already “beyond their wildest dreams.”

  4. Not really a favourite read but an important one nonetheless. The Independent reports that the government is to “severely pare back” long-promised rail upgrades to the north of England. The piece says the eastern leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds will be “kicked into the long grass”, with electrification of the Midland Mainline offered as a more immediate alternative. 

  5. Music blogger Roger Quail continues his quixotic attempt to document every gig he’s ever been to with this piece on Bow Wow Wow’s appearance in Sheffield in 1981. As ever, as well as the gig the blog contains a wealth of information about the city, including the astonishing revelation that Bela Lugosi played Dracula at the Lyceum in the 1950s.

Off the Shelf Festival

The 30th edition of the University of Sheffield’s annual Off The Shelf literary festival begins on Friday, October 15. This year’s festival includes talks by journalist Paul Mason, nature writer Anita Sethi and local historian Peter Machan.

Also included in this year’s programme is a new poem by Simon Armitage which has been written to celebrate the Peak District’s 70th birthday, and an audio and video poster trail by Dutch writer Jaap Robben entitled Biography of a Fly.

Online, the festival has recorded readings of the poems that are displayed around the city. These include Andrew Motion’s “What If?”, which is displayed on Sheffield Hallam University’s Owen Building, and “Twinned With Mars” by Roger McGough, which is in the Winter Garden. 

Things to do

Visit: The Bears of Sheffield farewell weekend gets underway at Meadowhall on Thursday, October 14. All 61 of the large bears will be on display, with tickets priced at £5 for adults, £2 for children and £12 for a family of four. All proceeds go to Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s Build a Better Future campaign.

Art: In A Vase, an exhibition from Sheffield-based painter and allotment holder Lianne Mellor is on now at Exchange Place Studios in Castlegate. The show is a new collection of still life paintings all based on items Lianne displayed in her house. The gallery is open on Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday from 10am-4pm.

Music: We’re not sure how many ravers we’ve got subscribing to The Tribune, but over the last few years the No Bounds festival has really put Sheffield on the global electronic music map. The festival takes place from Friday, October 15 to Sunday 17 at the Hope Works club in Attercliffe and Kelham Island Museum. If techno isn’t your thing, Wigan indie popsters The Lathums are playing the O2 Academy on Monday evening.

Radio: The Dreams We Live Inside is a BBC Radio 4 series which focuses on the built environment. In this episode, engineer and author Roma Agrawal comes to Sheffield’s Park Hill flats to find out more about the tenets of its brutalist architecture and speak to residents about what it’s like to live there today.

Theatre: The studio theatre is an intimate 400 capacity venue situated inside the main Crucible building. From Wednesday, October 13 to Saturday 16, it will host Love n Stuff, a play about a couple who seem to be heading in opposite directions. The show’s two actors perform more than 15 roles in a production described as “warming, silly and thoughtful”.

Who is she?

Normally, we try to put some accompanying information with the archive pictures we share but I can’t find anything to go with this. The photographer’s book is out of print and there’s no clue as to who the woman is and where this fantastic photo was taken. If you can help, please get in touch at editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk.

That’s it — you’re all caught up.