Ros Jones: ‘Doncaster is recovering. However you do not flip the Titanic round in a day’ | Society

No native elections came about final week in Doncaster. The final ones within the South Yorkshire city had been in 2017 and the subsequent can be in two years’ time, which is when Ros Jones may also be up for re-election because the Labour mayor. In neighbouring Sheffield and Barnsley, Labour misplaced seats, though the get together saved management of each councils.

For now, Jones, 69, has to content material herself with being a runner-up within the prestigious World Mayor prize – she was one in all solely 4 UK mayors eligible to enter earlier this 12 months, as a result of the prize was for girls, and the UK has a horrible monitor file of electing feminine mayors. Now there are simply two. Jones was shortlisted for her work in creating financial progress and main the city again from one in all its most troublesome durations. The framed certificates sits on a facet desk in her workplace. “I used to be extraordinarily stunned, humbled actually. Nevertheless it’s actually for the borough. It’s for Doncaster,” says Jones.

“Turning into the mayor of the place the place I used to be born was one in all my proudest moments,” she says of her 2013 victory, when she beat former mayor and English Democrat Peter Davies by a majority of simply 639. 4 years later, she took 50.9% of the vote, growing her majority to 19,056. She credit her wins to campaigning to create jobs, put money into housing, defend very important companies and restore religion in Doncaster’s youngsters’s companies.

This nook of Yorkshire is nonetheless struggling to beat the miseries of a depressed economic system: one of many strongest native political recollections is of the miners’ strike within the mid-1980s. Jones’s dad was a miner. “I’m one in all six, and every one in all us has finished fairly effectively as a result of they wished extra for us,” she says. “I went into native politics merely to signify the village I used to be born in. I’ve had an honest life and I’d prefer to encourage, change and enhance.” She needs each younger individual to consider that any door can open for them – and if that sounds corny, she says she doesn’t care.

An area councillor for seven years earlier than turning into mayor, Jones has knowledgeable background as an accountant and public sector supervisor. That’s come in useful as Doncaster wrestles with the challenges of central authorities cuts. “Being an accountant has helped immensely, once we do one thing like reschedule our debt,” says Jones.

“Like many different authorities, we now have suffered tremendously, and the north has suffered much more than the south,” she says. In 2019-20, for which the council has simply agreed its finances, central authorities funding has been minimize by £6.9m, with additional cuts the next 12 months of about £15.4m. By then, the whole hole Doncaster could have needed to bridge since 2010-11 can be £272m. “Allowing for that we’ve obtained a gross finances for 2019-20 of £495m, you may see the enormity of the cuts,” says Jones. Judicial use of reserves has helped fill a few of that hole, however primarily the council has needed to discover methods to ship companies in another way.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary

‘The NHS is a serious employer in Doncaster.’ Doncaster Royal Infirmary. {Photograph}: Alamy Inventory Picture

Take libraries. “Of 24 libraries, 20 are staffed by volunteers. They’re not solely libraries now, they’re social hubs, so we’ve used one thing fairly ingenious with a view to fill the hole.”

Nevertheless it’s not simply cuts: Jones is pushed up the wall by the lack of awareness in central authorities in regards to the want for advance planning. “I’ve been quoted earlier than as saying that is no strategy to run the nation, and no strategy to run an authority, if you don’t understand how a lot cash you’re going to have,” she says. Employment continues to be dominated by the general public sector – 6,00zero individuals work within the new civic centre, which has saved the council cash by enabling it to shut different buildings. The NHS is a serious employer, whereas a brand new college technical school can be opening in 2020. The railway sector gives each jobs and training, together with on the Nationwide School for Excessive Velocity Rail. Then there’s been a drive to draw logistics firms to websites on the sting of the city. Whereas the iPort centre, the place an enormous Amazon warehouse sits alongside an equally huge Lidl depot, is an impartial improvement, public sector cash has been spent on street and rail hyperlinks as a part of the Nice Yorkshire Method venture. The second section of the venture has price £9.8m, with £9.1m contributed by the Sheffield metropolis area funding fund and the stability coming from Doncaster council’s capital programme.

Jones needs to see a brand new rail spur constructed off the east coast mainline out to Doncaster Sheffield airport in a bid to usher in better-paid jobs. Extra instantly, the intention is to make sure that extra council contracts go to native firms. Final 12 months, she says, nearly three-quarters of the council’s income spend stayed with native firms, effectively forward of the 67% goal.

An in depth partnership between Jones and outgoing council chief govt, Jo Miller, who joined the council in 2012, has been credited with a outstanding turnaround in a borough that 10 years in the past was thought-about a basket case. One of many worst-performing councils in England, with failing main colleges, it was stripped of its youngsters’s companies in 2009. However by 2014, the council was out of particular measures.

The “Workforce Doncaster” method, with officers, councillors and different organisations inspired to work for the larger good of the world, has been essential, however Doncaster continues to be a way from being the affluent place its mayor needs it to be. Within the 2016 referendum, it had one of many highest go away votes in England. “As a result of I dwell in the neighborhood, I hear what individuals say. I consider the individuals of Doncaster had been and are fed up of being left behind, having needed to cope with six years of austerity on the time – 9 years now – and the continued disparity when it comes to spending between north and south.”

Regardless of comparatively low charges of immigration in Doncaster, the problem performed an enormous half within the go away vote, Jones believes. Doncaster itself has not had grooming circumstances like these in neighbouring Rotherham, however it has felt the influence, with assaults on native Asian taxi drivers growing.

Jones thinks that if there have been one other referendum, the native end result can be roughly the identical.

She realises native individuals need extra from her and her council. “Sure, we’ve began to get well since I got here in, however that was 2013 and also you don’t flip the Titanic round in a day. To start with we needed to regular the ship. We needed to get out of intervention. We had a youngsters’s service that wanted sorting and I’m significantly happy with how we’re now deemed to be good. You’ll be able to see enhancements, and we’re doing that with far much less cash. Nevertheless it’s irritating when issues aren’t shifting alongside shortly sufficient,” she says. “Give us one other 10 years, and we’ll have improved much more, I’m positive.”

Curriculum vitae

Age: 69.

Household: Married, with one daughter and one granddaughter.

Lives Norton, Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

Schooling Percy Jackson grammar college, Doncaster; Doncaster Technical School (accounts technician); Leeds Enterprise College (accountancy).

Profession 2013 to current: mayor of Doncaster; 2006-2013: ward councillor for Askern Ward; 1986-2006: varied accountancy positions in Doncaster and Sheffield, together with senior supervisor (enterprise and amenities administration) and group accountant (DMBC), and director of finance at Stanley Royd hospital, Wakefield.

Public Life Retired member of Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa); member of Sheffield metropolis area (SCR) mixed authority; Member of SCR Native Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board; chair of SCR Housing and Infrastructure Government Board (HIEB).

Pursuits Household, journey, operating.

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