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North-south divide is growing, says Croft

15 February 2013

by a staff reporter

THE Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, has urged the Government to rethink its austerity measures - which, he said, are worsening the north-south divide.

Dr Croft worked on the city's Fairness Commission, which published a report last week, Making Sheffield Fairer. It found that a fifth of households in the city are living in poverty, and 30,000 people are reliant on payday lenders and loan sharks. About 50,000 people are claiming out-of-work benefits, and 45,000 people are classed as long-term unemployed.

The commission calls for investment in preventative measures, such as encouraging more food banks to open, and improving access to credit; but it has just £1 million to implement its recommendations.

Dr Croft said that churches and charities would play a significant part in turning Sheffield into "the fairest city in the country." Their aspirations were being blocked, however, by the Government's austerity measures, which, he said, were unfairly hitting cities such as Sheffield the hardest.

South Yorkshire Police are losing 182 front-line officers, he said, but Surrey is increasing its force by 276. Oxfordshire has increased its funding to charities, but Sheffield has had to reduce its grants by £8.5 million.

Dr Croft has joined a new campaign, "A Fair Deal for Sheffield", launched by faith leaders and MPs. "All of our northern cities deserve and need a fair share of our government resources to thrive and flourish in the future. . . Local initiative and vision are vital, but so is the part played by Government and Parliament," he said.

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