Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sheffield Council's £1bn China deal 'dead'

The signing in China Image copyright Sheffield City Council
Image caption Sheffield City Council announced a 60-year agreement with the Sichuan Guodong construction firm in 2016

A council which signed a £1bn investment deal with a Chinese manufacturing firm three years ago has admitted the deal is now "dead".

Sheffield City Council announced the 60-year agreement with the Sichuan Guodong construction firm in 2016.

It was hailed a "massive vote of confidence" for the city but will now not happen, a councillor has said.

However, the authority said it had "no regrets" because the deal had "put Sheffield on the map".

Altogether the council spent £40,000 on trips connected with the agreement.

When she signed the deal in July 2016 Julie Dore, leader of the Labour-run council, said Sheffield would see "benefits and achievements" for years and years.

But at the time critics said public money was being wasted "chasing false promises".

Lord Scriven, former Lib Dem council leader, said taxpayers' money was being "thrown after false promises" and called it "a candy floss deal".

Image caption A plan to turn Sheffield's central library into a five-star hotel was part of the first plans mooted in the Chinese deal

Speaking at Sheffield Town Hall on Tuesday, councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, admitted the deal was now "dead".

He said he was "disappointed" the investment had not materialised, but the council had "no regrets" about the announcement as it had brought "wider benefits" to Sheffield.

"Many businesses in Sheffield benefited as a direct consequence and agreed contracts with the Chinese," Mr Iqbal said.

He said the city had the largest population of Chinese students outside London, and a strong Chinese tourism base.

"Yes the investment didn't materialise, but the announcement had wider benefits for the city - it put Sheffield on the map," Mr Iqbal said.

Work is now ongoing to find a purpose for the city library now it will not be turned into a hotel as part of the Chinese deal.

Lord Scriven tweeted that the deal was "a vanity project" and "not worth the paper it was written on".

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