Cleaner air, better parks and much more

I don’t think I am a particularly cynical person, but I am never quite sure when people say they love every minute of their job, or that every day they jump out of bed inspired by the difference they can make.

When they then tweet that I really start to have my doubts.  Having said that, I do believe that the opposite can be true and there are some whose jobs offer no enjoyment or fulfilment.

That is truly wrong and sad.  I am lucky as mine does, and for me the most stimulating thing is the sheer variety of what a Council, especially a big and ambitious one like Sheffield, can and does do.

Now I don’t expect you to get excited by an agenda for the Council’s Cabinet.  Formal decision processes can sometimes suck the life out of the most lively issue – and I recognise that “lively” in my world can mean controversial and unpopular.

But, this week’s Cabinet agenda is a great example of a variety of issues big and less big (no small issues here), of immediate and future impact and mainly relevant to us all.

So what have we got?  Plans to make Sheffield’s air clean probably take the prize for the biggest issue on the agenda.

The plans are ambitious – they need to be – as there is no such thing as a safe level of bad air, as our Director of Public Health has eloquently put it.

I predicted a year ago in this column that clean air will become the next cause for social justice and it is perhaps because of this realisation that the proposals have been well received, so far.  Sheffield knows social justice – fairness – when it sees it and am sure that is why it is receptive to the plans.

At the same time our city grows, so jostling for top billing on the agenda is a plan to deliver new homes, of which we need at least 2000 a year.

Of course, new homes is only one part of the story as most people who live in this city will not be moving home any time soon.  The state of your current home and where you live now really matters so the new homes plan is only one part of the picture.  Watch this space for further instalments.

With plans to clean the air and build new homes, parks comes next or, to be precise, the Building Better Parks Strategy.

Any city will be proud of its parks and Sheffield is rightly proud.  However, pride without action would be selfish and the strategy lays the ground work for our parks to be sustained into the future.  They are as much ours to enjoy as they are to pass on in good shape.  And of course good parks means cleaner air to breath means good places to live means better homes and neighbourhoods.  It’s beginning to look like there may be a plan!

The next two items bring us right into the here and now with two schemes to work with people in this city and in South Yorkshire who are finding it hard to get into work, training or education.

These plans will be supported, poignantly for some, by £8.8m of European Social Fund money (and please don’t read into that any Brexit comment).  What’s great about these two proposals, and what is also sad, is that despite the high levels of employment we have at the moment there is a danger that sections of our society – some people who live in this city – are getting left behind.  Big statistics can easily overlook this which is why it is important that a local lens is applied that sees the reality on the ground.  If approved, these two schemes will help transform people’s prospects.

As if all that isn’t enough, we then have a proposal to investigate the implications of water fluoridation in Sheffield.

This is just a step to assemble the facts before any decision can be considered so nothing definite one way or the other at this point but yet another significant issue.

Gambling then follows, and in particular how we intend to be socially responsible in how we license and permit this industry to operate in our city.  This feels like a permanent balancing act.

And then, bringing up the rear is a report on our budget.  It’s a tough one.  Less money and more demand could probably in one sentence sum it up, but despite it all we keep on keeping on.

On balance that’s a pretty fair agenda.  Ambitious, very relevant, about people and places fortunate and less fortunate.  It could have been a one item agenda which simply said that we haven’t got enough money but that would be defeatist and not what this city needs.

So, more homes in the city, with clean air, great parks and fewer people left behind.  That should get most people out of bed in the morning.  It works for me.

John Mothersole
John Mothersole
John Mothersole is the Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council. He was appointed to this role in 2008. The City Council is the third largest metropolitan authority in the country. John joined Sheffield City Council in 1998 as Executive Director and since then has been directly and closely involved in much of the regeneration of the City. Prior to coming to Sheffield he was a Director with the London Borough of Camden for seven years, and before that was the Arts Development Officer for Newcastle Upon Tyne.