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
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