David Parkin on a diamond in Steel City

FAREWELL then, Lord Bob Kerslake.

The career civil servant, who has died of cancer aged just 68, held roles including Head of the Civil Service, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government and chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, the national housing and regeneration agency for England.

It was in Sheffield, where he made his name and left a fantastic legacy.

If you remember the classic British comedy film The Fully Monty, it starts with a flickering public information film showcasing the “highlights” of the post industrial South Yorkshire city where it is based.

It paves the way to explaining why a group of unemployed men would perform a strip act in a local club.

It was Bob Kerslake who is credited with masterminding much of Sheffield’s post-industrial rebirth.

He was chief executive of Sheffield City Council between 1997 and 2008 and his impact was such that he was knighted in 2005 for services to local government.

The man who started his career in local government with the Greater London Council handling transport finance was described by Sheffield City Council as a “much-loved and inspirational” figure.

In a joint statement, leaders at the council said he “believed deeply in the power of public service having a real impact on people’s lives”.

“He will be remembered particularly for his work leading the regeneration of the city centre, including what are now iconic Sheffield landmarks such as the Winter Garden, Station Gateway, Millennium Square and Peace Gardens,” they said.

You only have to get off a train in Sheffield and walk up through the city centre to see the impact of what he did.

New buildings such as the Winter Garden, complement the many historic buildings that punctuate much of the city centre.

Even a multi-storey car park, affectionately known locally as the “Cheese Grater”, makes an attractive addition to the city.

I met Bob when he was in his role in Sheffield and I was a business journalist and he was charming and interesting company.

He wasn’t self-important, never avoided tough questions and you always departed an encounter with him knowing a lot more than when you arrived.

Born in Bath, he spoke with a gentle West Country burr which I immediately recognised when I heard him interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme just weeks before his death.

The Sheffield council leaders’ statement added: “Bob was not only concerned with Sheffield’s physical infrastructure – he cared deeply about the people and communities of the city and worked tirelessly to reduce the city’s deep-seated inequalities.”

The council said he was an “early supporter” of devolved power from central government and started the process of what became the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

Lord Kerslake led the Civil Service between January 2012 and September 2014 and had recently been working with the Labour Party on its preparations for the next general election.

He was introduced as a crossbench life peer in the House of Lords in 2015.

The statement concluded: “He lived in Sheffield until his death and retained a deep connection with the city and its development, including continuing to work in a voluntary capacity as chair of the board of governors of Sheffield Hallam University, a member of the advisory board of S1 Artspace, and chair of Sheffield Theatres Trust.

“He will be sadly missed by us all and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Anne, his family, and his many friends.”Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Sheffield Hallam University’s chancellor described Lord Kerslake as a “remarkable man”.

“A brilliant public servant of the highest calibre, full of integrity and humanity,” she said.

“We were so lucky to have him as chair of the governing body at Sheffield Hallam, he loved the university and was so proud of all that is achieved here.”

Achieving great things and doing the right thing for our cities and communities takes great people.

Sadly we have one less today.


IT’S a truncated blog today because I’m off to the Ashes test match at Headingley.

You can measure your own importance by the amount of notice you get to attend a big sporting fixture like this.

Many would have had it in their diaries for perhaps a year ahead of the event.

Others would have been issued with invitations to enjoy hospitality at the cricket months before today.

So when Simon Chappell texted me on Wednesday evening I was delighted to accept.

Simon is the CEO of Assured Data Protection, a UK and US based multi-award-winning business which backs up and protects data for major clients across the world.

He’s had a client unable to make today and needed a charming, good looking guest to step in who can make great conversation.

Sadly, they couldn’t attend either, so he messaged me.

The last time I bumped into Simon and his colleagues at Headingley they were celebrating a big contract win from a major entertainment business in the USA and the rose wine was flowing.

I’m hoping they will be celebrating in a similar way today.

I believe one of the guests on the table is Nigel Adams, who recently resigned as the Conservative MP for Selby and Ainsty in Yorkshire and where a by-election will soon be held.

I know Nigel from his days as a mobile technology entrepreneur and he’s good company, but I’m going to try to avoid talking about politics.

You see he’s a close ally of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and, alongside Nadine Dorries, resigned as an MP when denied being raised to the House of Lords in BoJo’s resignation honours.

It prompted an hilarious cartoon by my former Yorkshire Post colleague Graeme Bandeira for The Northern Agenda news outlet.

It was of Boris pushing a pram containing babies throwing their toys out of it.

The babies bore a great similarity to Nadine and Nigel.

So I’m not going to mention that or my encounter with Tory MP for Calder Valley, Craig Whittaker.

He called me “vile” when I criticised Boris Johnson for being economical with the truth.

What could possibly go wrong today?

Hopefully the sun shines and the cricket is so enthralling we don’t need to discuss politics.

Have a great weekend.

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