Breaking the bad news

Sheffield loses out as Tory growth plan ‘dead’

What scrapping Investment Zones means for Sheffield Central

Paul Mason
4 min readOct 30, 2022


The government confirmed today it will scrap Liz Truss’ plan for new ‘investment zones’. With Jeremy Hunt now looking for £35 billion worth of cuts and tax rises, they’ve been deemed too expensive.

But it leaves key projects backed by the South Yorkshire MCA asking: where will the money come from?

Truss’ strategy of ‘growth through local tax breaks’ was always doomed to fail. And her proposal to rip up environmental regulations was a flagrant breach of the UK’s commitment to zero net carbon.

But the South Yorkshire LEP was right to engage with the Treasury, submitting “expressions of interest” for a raft of housing, research and industrial development projects, some right in the heart of the city. Here’s the list (as reported in Rotherham Business News).

As of today there is no central government investment strategy- and we won’t find out until 17 November how bad the cuts are going to get.

According to Bloomberg, the Treasury has briefed that:

“There will be now money for investment now, nor will there be political backing for greater migration to address the UK’s chronic labour shortages”.

So what can we do? First, we need to make sure that, when Labour comes to power, we go on borrowing to invest. Though the cost of government borrowing has risen, borrowing to create new, green transport systems, warmer homes and 21st century hospitals is the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, there is now pressure on Labour to reverse that commitment. As a long-listed candidate for Sheffield Central CLP I’ve pledged to resist that.

Second, we need to fight at national level for the priorities outlined in South Yorkshire’s Strategic Economic Plan.

At national level, Labour has promised to create an Industrial Strategy Council, committed to “mission oriented” investment plans. In plain English, that means we will spend money to achieve specific goals — like small nuclear reactors, hydrogen power and artificial intelligence — and South Yorkshire needs to put itself near the front of the queue for that money.

As an economics journalist, I’ve spent 20 years talking to the kind of investors who’ll make decisions about Sheffield’s future. From Geneva to California to Guangdong, they ask the same questions — about skills, local vision, energy security and industrial capacity — and if you can’t clinch it in the first five minutes, forget it.

2016: Paul Mason confronts Ken Clarke as the Tories put the steel industry at risk

I know how to sell the idea of Sheffield as a prime location for new investment — without giving an inch on business taxation, wages, union recognition or environmental safeguards.

With Manchester emerging as a Tier One global city, and Leeds-Bradford in the spotlight due to the City of Culture in 2025, Sheffield needs to speak with a stronger voice: both nationally and internationally.

If selected as the Labour candidate I will make that one of my top priorities.

For me, meeting the council’s goal of a poverty-free city by 2030 goes hand in hand with telling a strong regional investment story. Attracting public and private investment to create new, green jobs — from properly paid care work to nuclear engineering — could benefit every community in the city.

When I first came to Sheffield as a teenager, politics for me was about high ideals. Today it’s about project plans. What’s the start date, where’s the money and where’s the local willpower to make it happen?

From housing to transport to the skills revolution, the first months of a Labour government will be a fight over priorities.

If selected, I will represent Sheffield Central doggedly in that conversation. That’s why I’m standing: it’s about politics and experience.

I have the skills and know-how to walk into a room with the investors, civil servants and ministers who’ll decide Sheffield Central’s place in the new investment strategy — and leave that room with commitments.

If you’re a Labour member in Sheffield please sign up to support my campaign here. This week, the Ward branch nominations meetings begin. Please consider proposing, seconding and voting for me to reach the short-list. Only then do I get the membership list, and the ability to address people directly at a hustings. Solidarity and good luck to all the candidates!



Paul Mason

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Author of How To Stop Fascism.