Lib Dems’ delays - claim

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Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat council leaders have been accused in the Commons of delaying swinging the jobs axe in the hope of leaving an incoming Labour administration with a string of deeply unpopular decisions to take.

Labour’s shadow local government secretary Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley, accused Sheffield’s Lib Dems of trying to “pull the wool over the eyes” of city folk.

Meanwhile, Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts predicted “several hundred” more jobs will be lost on top of redundancies announced last week.

The council last week said 270 jobs will be axed including highly-paid management posts as the authority implements £215 million of cuts.

But the number is far less than feared – the GMB trade union having predicted up to 2,000 of the council’s 13,500 staff.

Other big authorities have announced much heavier job losses, including 2,000 at Manchester City Council and 1,500 at Liverpool City Council.

Mr Betts claims the Lib Dems fear they will lose power to Labour in May and are determined to leave unpopular decisions to their successors.

He said: “Many vacancies in Sheffield are being unfilled, and they are going to affect services.

“We know of several hundred posts that will not be filled, and we also suspect the Lib Dem administration there is trying to delay and avoid decisions, waiting to pass them on to the new Labour administration in May.”

Ms Flint said: “The Liberal Democrats are running scared. They have deferred the decisions because they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Sheffield, but I have to say that is not going to work.”

Sheffield’s Lib Dem council leader Paul Scriven today hit back saying: “This is classic Labour in Sheffield – scaremongering and lying to generate some cheap headlines.”

He said a decision to freeze for two years the pay of all council staff earning over £21,000 had saved £10m and helped ease the pain of some cuts.

“There will be no closures of libraries, leisure centres, or swimming pools, we will retain weekly bin collections, we will be retaining the same criteria for social care.”

The Lib Dems are hanging on to power in Sheffield by the most slender of margins. The party lost its majority in May and only retain control of the Town Hall with the support of the independent and green councillors.