Oh, so that’s why Sheffield is falling behind

Sheffield by night. Image: Benedict Hunjan/Wikimedia Commons.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities. 

Last time, on CityMetric:

 

“My god! What could possibly be going on in Sheffield?”

Egad!

What we neglected to tell you last week – embarrassingly; shamefully – is that there’s probably a relatively simple explanation for all this. Two charts are enough to tell the story.

This one shows the percentage of jobs in each of the five big northern cities that are in the manufacturing sector. As ever, we’re getting our data from the Centre for Cities excellent data tool:

 

Two things are worth noting here. One is that Sheffield has significantly more jobs in making stuff than any of the other four. The other is that there's no sign of that changing. (It's tempting to say that the opposite is happening – the numbers went up in four years out of five – but the differences aren't huge, so that may be over-stating things.)

Here's the second chart. This time it's the percentage of jobs in the "Private Knowledge Intensive Business Services", which is a fancy way of saying "well-paid stuff".

You can probably guess where this is going.

Yep: Sheffield is doing a lot less well on this one.


So, how does this explain Sheffield being left behind? Well, a big manufacturing sector is not a great thing for the economy of a developed world city. Technology means that factories don't generate the jobs they once did; competitive pressure from factories all over the world mean that many of the jobs which do exist are unlikely to be particularly well-paid.

Oh, and the UK's manufacturing sector has been in recession three times in the last eight years.

The most economically successful cities tend to have smaller manufacturing bases, but much larger knowledge-based service industries. On that measure, Manchester and Leeds are clearly way out ahead.

So, yes: if moving from a low-paid manufacturing economy to a high-paid service one is your definition of economic success – which, mathematically, it should be – then Sheffield is quite clearly being left behind its two closest rivals.

To hammer the point home, here's one more graph. (I know I said there'd only be two graphs in here, but this one's a good one.) It's the correlation between weekly wages and manufacturing base in 2014.

Rich cities don't rely on manufacturing. Just say no, kids.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

More than 830 cities have brought essential services back under public control. Others should follow

A power station near Nottingham: not one owned by Robin Hood Energy, alas, but we couldn't find anything better. Image: Getty.

The wave of cities worldwide rejecting privatization is far bigger and more successful than anyone thought, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute, Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation. Some 835 cities in 45 countries have brought essential services like water, energy and health care back under public control.

The persistent myth that public services are by nature more expensive and less efficient is losing its momentum. Citizens and users do not necessarily have to resign to paying increasingly higher tariffs for lower standard services. The decline of working conditions in public services is not an inevitability.

And the ever larger role private companies have played in public service delivery may at last be waning. The remunicipalisation movement – cities or local authorities reclaiming privatised services or developing new options – demonstrates that cities and citizens are working to protect and reinvent essential services.

The failure of austerity and privatisation to deliver promised improvements and investments is part of the reason this movement has advanced. But the real driver has been a desire to meet goals such as addressing climate change or increasing democratic participation in service provision. Lower costs and tariffs, improved conditions for workers and better service quality are frequently reported following remunicipalisation.  Meanwhile transparency and accountability have also improved.

Where remunicipalisation succeeds, it also tends to inspire other local authorities to make similar moves. Examples are plentiful. Municipalities have joined forces to push for renewable, climate-friendly energy initiatives in countries like Germany. Public water operators in France and Catalonia are sharing resources and expertise, and working together to overcome the challenges they meet.

Outside Europe, experiments in public services are gaining ground too. Delhi set up 1,000 Mohalla (community) clinics across the city in 2015 as a first step to delivering affordable primary health care. Some 110 clinics were working in some of the poorest areas of Delhi as of February 2017. The Delhi government claims that more than 2.6m of its poorest residents have received free quality health care since the clinics were set up.


Local authorities and the public are benefiting from savings too. When the Nottingham City Council found out that many low-income families in the city were struggling to pay their energy bills, they set up a new supply company. The company, Robin Hood Energy, which offers the lowest prices in the UK, has the motto: “No private shareholders. No director bonuses. Just clear transparent pricing.”

Robin Hood Energy has also formed partnerships with other major cities. In 2016, the city of Leeds set up the White Rose Energy municipal company to promote simple no-profit tariffs throughout the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. In 2017, the cities of Bradford and Doncaster agreed to join the White Rose/Robin Hood partnership.

Meanwhile, campaigners with Switched on London are pushing their city to set up a not-for-profit energy company with genuine citizen participation. The motivations in these diverse cities are similar: young municipal companies can simultaneously beat energy poverty and play a key role in achieving a just and renewable energy transition.

Remunicipalised public services often involve new forms of participation for workers and citizens. Remunicipalisation is often a first step towards creating the public services of the future: sustainable and grounded in the local economy. Inspiration can be found in the European towns and villages aiming for 'zero waste' with their remunicipalised waste service, or providing 100 per cent locally-sourced organic food in their remunicipalised school restaurants.

Public services are not good simply because they are not private. Public services must also continuously renew themselves, grow, innovate and recommit to the public they serve.

The push for remunicipalisation in Catalonia, for example, has come from a movement of citizen platforms. For them, a return to public management is not just an end in itself, but a first step towards the democratic management of public services based on ongoing civil participation.

Evidence is building that people are able to reclaim public services and usher in a new generation of public ownership. The momentum is building, as diverse movements and actors join forces to bring positive change in communities around the world.

You can read the Transnational Institute report, “Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”, on its website.