Two thirds of businesses want Doncaster to become a city

The borough has tried before – but its businesses reckon it should try again.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 3:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 1:12 pm
Jamie Dunbar, of Cementation Skanska, Jackie Pederson, of Doncaxster NHS CCG, and Emma Glenc, of Volker Rail

Last time Doncaster applied for city status is missed out as the honour was bestowed on Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Ten years earlier Doncaster lost out to Preston, Newport, Stirling, Lisburn and Newry when cities were created for the Golden Jubilee. In 2000, it lost out to Brighton, Inverness and Wolverhampton.

Now the idea has raised its head again.

Doncaster Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dan Fell raised the issue again at the Chamber’s annual conference earlier this summer, and the idea has been backed by mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones, who believes it would help the borough attract inward investment, and that the borough has grown enormously in the last five years in terms of its economy.

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Now, it has been revealed that a survey of local firms has revealed 70 per cent support for a bid.

Of those who responded to the survey run by the Chamber as part of its latest Doncaster Business Insight report, a total of 14 per cent opposed another application, and 16 per cent said they did not know.

Mr Fell proposed another city status application in May, describing Doncaster as punching above its weight and setting city standards, adding he believed that securing city status would cement Doncaster’s reputation as a place of national and international significance, and make it easier to get a place at top table talks and apply for investment.

This week, revealing the survey findings, part of the Chamber’s latest Doncaster Business Insight survey, to Doncaster business leaders, Mr Fell said: “I think it is what Doncaster deserves. I wasn’t sure what the response would be after the conference in May, but inside the first 24 hours, the response was fantastic, but anecdotal.

He admitted it was not certain yet when city status would be given out again.

He said: “It is not a launch, it is about talking to businesses that want the borough to apply to be a city, as well as those who don’t, and seeing what the challenges might be. We will talk to the community and businesses, but this is a good indication.”

The city status bid was one of a number of issues that were raised in the latest survey. It also looked at infrastructure, where firms said the biggest challenge was the travel network to allow people access jobs.

It also looked at health challenges in the workplace, with the survey revealing mental health to be the main health and wellbeing challenge in the workplaces, raised by 26 per cent of firms.

Doncaster firms taking part in a panel at the event say they are looking closely at health issues as part of their day to day operations.

Emma Glenc, of Volker Rail, said the firm has started support networks around mental health, and that the firm had linked up with Donaster MIND, the mental health charity.

That has led to line managers being trained to recognise signs of anxiety or depression. They were looking to have one in 10 trained as mental health champions. They have also introduced seating areas outside the office where staff could relax away from the hustle and bustle of the workplace.

Jamie Dunbar, managing director of Cementation Skanska, said they had also introduced mental health ambassadors, with 10 per cent of the staff trained in that function. All staff have a occupational health check every year, with help offered to people working away or in particularly stressful roles, and they tried to identified any health issues early so they could help at an early stage.

Jackie Pederson, from Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, said the NHS was trying to increase the number of people who engaged with their mental health services for anxiety and depression, and they were willing to work with businesses, adding mental health and physical health were often interlinked.

Should Doncaster become a city? Your views.

Residents in Doncaster town centre were split on whether Doncaster should try to become a city.

Roy Lambert, aged 80, of Bentley said: “I think we should be applying to be a city. We’ve got a Mansion House, and there are only three of those in England, here and in York and London. We’ve also got a minster, although they have destroyed a lot of our historic buildings over the years. I think Doncaster should be a city. Why not?

Debbie Read, aged 58, of Cantley, said: “I think it should be a city and I think it is about time we had that status. If Sheffield is a city, why should Doncaster not be one. I think we’d proably have a better reputation if we were a city, and I’d support an application.

Molly Griffiths, aged 74, of Warmsworth, said: “We should not apply. I think it would be a waste of money. I’d be worried that the rates would go up. I think any money that we’d be spending on becoming a town would be better spent on cleaning up the town centre.”

Frances Darby, aged 60, of Wheatley, said: “We shouldn’t be applying for city status. We don’t have the infrastructure or the amenities to be a city, although its better than it used to be. We don’t have the diversity of population, or the money. We need to concentrate on being a popular town again in terms of employment and commerce. We need to be a stable town before we look at being a city.

Sarah Bullimore, aged 24, of Stainforth, said: “I think we should be a city. I think we’ve expanded, and we have a lovely development at the wool market which people are using, we’ve got the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, and we’ve even got an airport and great leisure facilities. I think being a city would do a lot of local business and create more of a buzz.”

Paul Bullimore, aged 27, of Stainforth said: “I think there are pros and cons. When you think of cities like London and Manchester, you think of homelessness, and you think of knife crime. I think we need to think long and hard.”