Speech delivered Doncaster Chamber of Commerce on 24/01/19
It is a pleasure to join you this evening.
Let me begin by thanking Dan, the Doncaster Chamber Chief Executive, for inviting me here to speak – in what is a fine venue.
It is always a pleasure to speak to and hear from businesses across South Yorkshire – I am impressed by your ambition, innovation and resilience.
As a Barnsley MP, I knew something of the recent progress that has been made in Doncaster.
It is only since becoming Mayor that I have come to fully appreciate Doncaster for what it is:
A place that does things for itself.
A place that is forward thinking.
A place that oozes confidence.
Doncaster knows what it wants to achieve, and has a plan to do it
Doncaster has so much going for it.
I can see that as I look around this room tonight.
I want to take the opportunity to extend my gratitude to Nigel Brewster, who I have had the pleasure of working alongside in his role as vice-chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Nigel has made an important contribution to the work of the LEP since its formation and is a great ambassador for Doncaster and for our region.
It is because of the work he has done, that the LEP is in a strong position to support our private sector and invest in our communities.
Thank you, Nigel.
The business community that all of you represent forms the bedrock of our local economy.
This is always brought home to me when I visit our region’s growing organisations.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport – which has expanded significantly in recent years – is opening opportunities to residents and businesses.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park – growing, creating jobs and supporting our visitor economy.
The National College for High Speed Rail – connecting opportunities to some of our region’s best talent.
These successes are testament to the tremendous efforts of many people across Doncaster – and many of you in this room this evening.
When it comes down to it, your businesses are the places where people work.
Your successes drive our economic growth.
And ultimately, our region is defined both nationally and internationally by the things that you do, the services you deliver and the products that you make.
When you thrive, our communities thrive.
I know that in the Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, and the Chief Executive of Doncaster Council, Jo Miller, you have two fantastic champions
They have done a great job in what are extremely challenging times for local authorities.
You also have three highly experienced MPs in Rosie Winterton, Caroline Flint and Ed Miliband – all with real clout in Parliament.
And as the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, I will do whatever I can to lead our region to success – and that means doing my utmost to support you as you continue to thrive and prosper.
But (and there is always a but) these are the most challenging times.
As the 21st century takes shape around us, our country faces profound challenges:
- We face the task of answering the real-world questions that communities and businesses have over Brexit;
- We do so in the context of stalling productivity, with questions over how we can ensure our country is firing on all cylinders;
- And questions over automation and the way that it will shape the workplaces of the future.
These challenges are as urgent for us in our region as they are for any other part of the country.
But we are not starting from the strongest base.
We are still living with the historic legacies of de-industrialisation;
And we have experienced decades of systematic underinvestment in our communities and in our economy;
This is a drag on our productivity and on our competitiveness.
And it wastes the talent and skills of our workforce.
Simply put: we are not where we could be.
We have huge untapped potential in our workforce and in our businesses.
We face the challenge of building a transport system that is fit for the 21st century – and enables our people to access opportunities for work, leisure and travel.
And we face the challenge of ensuring our people are equipped with the skills they need to face the future.
I stood to be Mayor because I believe that we have before us, a unique opportunity to respond to these challenges.
And we face a simple choice.
We accept our current predicament. Or we challenge it.
I intend to challenge it.
Because I believe that we have a positive story to tell.
We are often characterised as a region in decline.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Take the Great Yorkshire Way project as an example.
With an initial £56m investment, we were able to link Doncaster Sheffield Airport with the M18.
From that initial investment – and because of both the public and private sectors working together – our region unlocked £1.8bn worth of investment; it created 1,200 jobs; it supported national airport capacity by delivering airport growth.
And it aided the development of iPort – one of the UK’s largest logistics developments.
And all of this was achieved whilst regenerating a former colliery community.
I want to pay tribute to Ros, Jo and their team for the work they did in driving the plans for Great Yorkshire Way forward – and to the Local Enterprise Partnership for the support they provided – as well as the many businesses that took the opportunity to get on board and invest in our region.
It is because of that forward-thinking, innovative approach that the airport forms a crucial component of our plan for a Global Innovation Corridor – where people, businesses and ideas are better connected to the great assets of our universities and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.
And it because of what you achieved, working together, that the people and businesses in our region are better connected with the global opportunities out there.
The University Technical College is another example of where we are ahead of the curve.
A collaboration between business, our region’s outstanding universities and Doncaster council – working together to make sure that we have the right people with the right skills.
It will continue Doncaster’s proud tradition of contributing to our country’s national prosperity – drawing on the skills and expertise of a locally-trained and highly-skilled workforce.
Dan from the Chamber and Lee Tillman from Doncaster Council were strong advocates for the University Technical College – and they are to be commended for the work that they did making the case to Government.
And as we look to the future, it is precisely that kind of commitment that will drive forward our success as a region.
We aren’t a region in decline.
We are a region on the up.
Looking out to the modern world.
A region with the potential to punch well above our weight.
And as our story develops, we all have a part to play.
Communities and businesses.
Public sector and private sector.
Local authorities, regional government and national government.
Because the truth is that we achieve far more working together than we do working alone.
And on my watch, the Sheffield City Region is playing its part.
The Mayoral Combined Authority, working with the LEP, is investing in our communities.
Since I became Mayor last year, we have approved a number of Northern Powerhouse Local Growth Fund projects across the Sheffield City Region – totalling £42m.
By the end of March, this should rise to £86m.
The projects and initiatives that we are supporting are delivering encouraging results.
At the first Combined Authority meeting that I chaired in June last year, we approved a £4.1m investment in support of 360 Degrees Media’s plan to develop a TV and film studio at Doncaster College’s former High Melton site – providing jobs in our creative industries.
We also provided £1.35m support for the Quality Streets development currently underway in Hallgate and Silver Street– regenerating the town centre and creating jobs for local residents.
And just before Christmas we approved £5m to support the expansion of Yorkshire Wildlife Park – which will create 315 jobs and is projected to generate £46m to the local economy each year – and it supports our ambitions to grow our visitor economy.
These are all important developments that will help to strengthen our economy by creating growth and boosting jobs.
But we have much more work to do to improve our infrastructure and to train our workforce.
Because that is how we strengthen our economy and build on these successes.
And I am working to ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place.
Last month, I launched my Transport Vision, which sets out an ambitious plan to develop a fully integrated transport network across our region – connecting our people with the places they want to go.
It is a vision that looks beyond South Yorkshire.
Because for our businesses to succeed, we must seize the opportunities to improve connectivity to the major port towns in the Humber – as well as to the other great cities of the North.
My Transport Vision will take a long-term view on how we can do this – and it will identify where we need to invest resources, and how we should invest it.
I am doing the best that I can to make sure that our communities are prepared for the future.
I believe that we now have the vision and the strategic leadership to meet those challenges head on.
But our ambitions alone cannot provide the solutions to the problems that we face.
We need the Government to realise the potential that we have as a region.
And we need them to work with us to unlock that potential.
We have to get this right.
On transport, on skills and on the economy.
Getting this right means having our fair share of investment.
Which is why I met with the Chancellor two weeks ago – to make this case and to show that, if given the right resources, we can provide outstanding results.
But this is not just about investment.
It is about placing decision-making as close to communities as we can.
It is about ensuring that we have the powers and flexibility to spend resources where we know it will make the most impact.
Which is why we must seize the opportunity that devolution presents us to take control of our own destiny.
And we achieve this by delivering a serious and comprehensive devolution deal that works for our region.
I have been clear from the start that I want to see a One Yorkshire devolution deal.
I believe it is the right solution for our region.
It will give us the opportunity to work collaboratively and collectively with our partners across Yorkshire – in both the public and private sectors – to tackle the challenges that we face.
And it will give us the credibility and the clout to look out to the world as a force to be reckoned with.
But we must also work to reach agreement on the Sheffield City Region deal.
It is frustrating that we still haven’t reached a consensus on the way forward.
We can get there.
But we need to see compromise from all sides.
I am doing all I can to work closely with Government and with local authorities to reach a deal.
Finalising a deal requires the agreement of Government, local authorities and me as Mayor – and I see it as my responsibility to steer us through this process.
We must get there.
Because I firmly believe, that if we pull together, our best days are ahead of us.
Our region has a strong and proud past.
It is rooted in the hard work, grit and determination of generations of men and women before us.
And as I look around this room this evening, I see those very same characteristics shining through in the work that you are doing.
I see every reason to believe that this character will drive us to even bigger and even better successes in the future.
And I look forward to writing the next chapter of Doncaster’s story with all of you.