Sheffield has forged plans to woo the UK’s leading firms out of London with the aid of cash incentives, the Gazette has learned. City leaders have contacted every top 100 firm to urge them to consider ‘northshoring’.
Sheffield is believed to be the first English city to commit public funds to persuade firms to relocate. This follows similar initiatives in Cardiff and Belfast, backed by devolved government, to incentivise relocations from London.
Potential support could include business rate relief, access to a business investment fund grant and recruitment consultants. One London-based firm has already been offered a year’s free rent if it commits to a five-year lease on 5,000 sq ft of office space.
Leigh Bramall, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, said the authority expects the investment to reap long-term benefits for the city.
‘We believe Sheffield has reached a critical point whereby the city has a compelling offer and a track record of success,’ he said. ‘By further expanding legal services, adding to those companies already here, we can continue to build a strong city centre that makes our city increasingly vibrant and attractive, which in turn helps to attract other companies, creating jobs and wealth.’
The campaign will be led by Creative Sheffield, the economic development arm of the city council with the aim of creating jobs and growth in the city. The organisation has a budget of almost £3m in 2016/17.
Glossy brochures emphasise the city’s close links to national and international business centres, aiming to steal a march on Leeds and Manchester. Salary costs that are up to 28% lower than in London are also highlighted, while Grade-A city centre office space is being marketed from £14 per sq ft.
The effort to attract more firms to the city has been backed by Sheffield’s biggest native practices, including DLA Piper, Irwin Mitchell, hlw Keeble Hawson and Nabarro. The city’s two universities are also supporting the northshoring effort.
The migration of law firm business functions out of London is well established, but took a significant step forward last year when magic circle firm Freshfields confirmed plans to take 80,000 sq ft in Salford and offer some frontline services from there. However, Sheffield faces competition from more established legal centres such as Manchester and Leeds when luring firms.
Bramall said the quality of life and affordable housing will persuade individuals to move, while business advantages will win over employers.
‘Sheffield is the greenest city in the country, meaning the greenery is part of the city’s fabric, not just on the fringes of the city, and the safest major city for violent crime,’ he said.
‘We are centrally located in the UK, right in the middle of Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham, and access to London is easy and direct by train and car.
‘We also offer a more cost-effective option than Leeds and Manchester, with high-quality grade-A office accommodation costing less than in these two centres. Our skill levels are also higher than many cities, with the numbers of young people with level-four qualifications well above the national average.’