Chancellor accused of 'giving up' on Sheffield in frustrating and disappointing Budget

The Chancellor was accused of ‘giving up’ in a Budget which overlooked South Yorkshire and failed to get a grip on the North-South divide.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 9:24 pm

There was disappointment and frustration as the region missed out on a Freeport based on Doncaster Sheffield Airport, predicted to create thousands of jobs.

Leeds was chosen for a new £12bn infrastructure bank and Darlington was picked for a new ‘economic campus’ for the Treasury.

And there was no transformative shift of power and resources to level up the economy – the government continues to run competitive bids for national pots of funding.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget statement to the House of Commons. (Photo by -/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

Yesterday, only bids by Stocksbridge and Goldthorpe in Barnsley made the cut to join 45 new Town Deals sharing £1bn from the Towns Fund.

And Sheffield is at ‘the back of the queue’ based on an ‘index of need’ in the new £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund

In the Commons, Labour leader Keir Starmer said bitterly: “Moving parts of the Treasury to Darlington, creating a few Freeports and re-announcing funding isn't levelling up - it's giving up!”

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis branded the Budget a ‘political ploy’ not a plan for the places that need support after the pandemic.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responds to the Budget. House of Commons/PA Wire

He added: “A cursory glance the Government’s criteria for the Levelling Up Fund is symbolic of their divide and rule approach. The Chancellor has identified his own Richmond seat as ‘category one’ and relocated his Treasury office to a neighbouring constituency, but has labelled places like Barnsley and Sheffield as ‘category two’ – pushing them to the back of the queue for economic support.

"Ministers must change their approach, or they will put the country on course for a deeply divided recovery.”

Peter Kennan, chair of Sheffield Chamber’s Transport Forum said he was very disappointed Doncaster had failed to be named a Freeport.

He added: “The powerful bid brought together our largest operational rail port, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, some of our largest and most important companies and ample prime development land.”

Alexis Krachai

Dan Fell, chief executive of Doncaster Chamber said it was a missed opportunity for government to honour its levelling up commitments.

He added: “Nonetheless, it is important to note that Freeport status would have accelerated plans for economic development in the area rather than driven them. Significant opportunities still exist in the region and we have reason to remain upbeat about the benefit these assets can bring to the wider economy.”

Alexander Stafford, Conservative MP for Rother Valley, said the Budget provided businesses and families in Rother Valley with the support and reassurance they needed to get through the pandemic.

He added: “I was elected on a commitment to level up communities like ours, and I am thrilled that the government is making good on that promise by building our future economy and investing in every corner of the United Kingdom This is only the start of that brighter future."

Peter Kennan, chair of the transport forum at Sheffield Chamber.

Alexis Krachai, interim executive director of Sheffield Chamber, welcomed the government’s decision to extend the furlough scheme.

He added: “For months behind the scenes Sheffield Chamber, along with the other Chambers across the country, has been pushing hard for this decision. It is good the Chancellor has listened.

“The Chancellor’s statement inevitably included some big numbers about where the government is going to invest.

“With budgets the devil is in the detail so organisations like Sheffield Chamber will be working with our local political leaders to dig into the details to make sure the government delivers on its promises.

“Longer term, it is clear that the pandemic has left a big hole in the country’s finances. That matters to everyone and every business.”

He also said the country had to find a way to pay back the £400bn government had borrowed whilst fighting the virus. The pandemic had also increased inequalities. The only way to tackle them both was by growing the economy.

He added: “Every decision the government makes need to be focussed on helping us to grow the economy in Sheffield and to help businesses create more jobs and better quality jobs.

“Businesses have a hugely important role because it will be businesses that will create the jobs and pay the taxes that will help our economy to recover.

“If politicians want to build back better in the city they cannot do that without involvement from businesses. Sheffield Chamber will be making sure business views are seriously considered as we start rebuilding our economy. ”

Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley in Doncaster, said he was delighted despite being disappointed Doncaster Sheffield Airport was not awarded Freeport status.

He said: “The Chancellor provided a series of measures to help the economy recover from this terrible pandemic and help level up the north of England.

“I know that across Don Valley, the extension of the furlough scheme, further support for the self-employed, and the extension of the Universal Credit uplift for an additional six months will help families and businesses across the country. This support package will save thousands of jobs, provide security for those who need it most, and lay the foundation for our economic recovery in the upcoming years.

“I know how much business has suffered. It is clear the Government recognises this, and I was reassured the Budget confirmed the extension of the businesses rate holiday for another year. This will save a vast £6 billion for our many great entrepreneurs and business owners.

"Furthermore, keeping VAT rates at five per cent until September for the hospitality and tourism sectors will help reinvigorate these industries as we come out of lockdown in the months ahead.

“I was pleased that the rise in corporation tax to 25 per cent will only be applied to the top 10 per cent of businesses which have profits of £250,000 plus.

Lastly, it was fantastic that the Chancellor announced several measures which will help level up the north. The ‘super-deduction’ is another innovative, invigorating initiative that will supercharge infrastructure projects across the country. Equally, the Levelling Up Fund that takes applications next month will go a long way in bringing prosperity and jobs to the North.”

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.