Last week, local leaders and I announced a £860m South Yorkshire Renewal Fund to build a stronger, greener and fairer regional economy as we recover from Covid. This will unleash South Yorkshire’s potential and invest hundreds of millions into schemes to fundamentally transform our regional economy: creating thousands of good, well-paid jobs; training workers and apprentices; building a public transport system fit for the 21st Century; transforming our infrastructure; revitalising our High Streets and urban centres.
The Government have shown their contempt for Barnsley and South Yorkshire through delivering a Budget that systematically levels down our communities. We will not stand by and let our incredible potential be squandered. We will use every tool at our disposal to invest in our people, places and public services. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; our plan sends a crystal-clear message of ambition and confidence: that South Yorkshire is ready to prosper.
Barnsley people are rightly proud of our shared industrial heritage. South Yorkshire was once the workshop and the engine room of the British economy; and the toil of Barnsley miners kept the lights on in homes the length and breadth of Britain. Heritage isn’t about nostalgia, or longing for times past. It’s about reflecting proudly on our past and marching forward with optimism. With the right investment, our economy can sit at the cutting edge of the Green Industrial Revolution and create the high-skilled, well-paid jobs of the future.
Moreover, the creation of the South Yorkshire Renewal Fund is about so much more than announcing a funding stream. As well as having the cash, we’ve also got a plan to use it wisely and make a real difference. We are investing £5.5m to rebuild our flood defences and protect those homes and businesses that we hit so hard by the devastating floods of November 2019. We are delivering £2m to support the creation of walking and cycling infrastructure, to enable residents to swap the car for walking, cycling or running where they can. We are investing £68m in infrastructure to revitalise our high streets and urban centres.
Alongside investing in infrastructure, the South Yorkshire Renewal Fund will also invest in the young people who have borne the brunt of the economic impact of Covid and who face an uncertain future. I know just how hard this last year has been, which is why we are introducing an 80p flat rate concessionary fare for every South Yorkshire residents aged 11 to 21. Starting on 21 June 2021 (when we expect the final stage of lockdown restrictions to be eased) and running for a year, this new lower fare will enable young people to access education, training, employment and leisure – as part of a comprehensive £23.45m support package to tackle unemployment, create a second chance to get vital qualifications and put young people at the heart of our recovery.
Not only will this policy make a practical difference to 11-21-year-olds, it will also help our town centres and High Streets get back on their feet through supporting the hospitality and leisure sectors. It will increase bus patronage levels and create more investment in bus networks and fleets. It will help to accelerate our transition to Net Zero.
I serve as your MP and Mayor because I know our best days lie ahead. That’s why we’re creating the South Yorkshire Renewal Fund – to give everyone a stake in our future prosperity. We will deliver a New Deal for Barnsley and for South Yorkshire and demonstrate the practical power of devolution to transform the lives of working people and their families.