The Star 2011 Year Review: January and February

Demonstrators and police outside the Liberal Democrats' Spring Conference, at the Sheffield City Hall. Picture: Chris Lawton.
Demonstrators and police outside the Liberal Democrats' Spring Conference, at the Sheffield City Hall. Picture: Chris Lawton.
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THAT was the year that was... Reporter Erin Cardiff begins a week-long series looking back on the events that made the news in The Star over the last 12 months. We begin with January and February.

31.01.11, Pages 1 & 2: THREE teenage pals died in a horror car smash in South Yorkshire in January when a 16-year-old unlicensed driver lost control and ploughed into a tree.

The three friends – aged just 14, 15 and 16 – suffered multiple injuries in the high-speed crash, which tore the car in two.

The accident happened at 4.30am on January 30 on the A630 just outside Conisbrough, close to a landmark water tower.

Paramedics battled to save the youngsters as firefighters cut them all free from the mangled wreckage.

Two of the teenagers died at the scene and a third in Doncaster Royal Infirmary. They were later named by friends as Michael Gallagher, 16, from Warmsworth, Tom Hughes, 15, from Bessacarr, and Antonia Brown, 14, from Balby.

The tragic news came just weeks after a crash in Mexborough, only four miles away, claimed the lives of three other teenagers.

The car was travelling back towards Warmsworth when it ran out of control after a sweeping bend. Skid marks appeared to how it had drifted sideways before hitting a mature sycamore tree, he added.

Chf Supt Keith Lumley, head of specialist operations, said: “It’s an absolute tragedy.

“It brings to six the fatalities involving teenagers in just over a month. ”

The crash happened in a 60mph zone on the road, which was closed until 11am on the day of the tragedy.

A group of clearly distressed friends accompanied by a police family liaison officer laid flowers, teddies and a balloon at the scene the evening after the accident. One said: “We will miss you all, the Howard family. ” Another: “Sorry you have gone from us too soon, you will always have a place in my heart and will be forever missed in our lives, Tamzin. ”

16.02.11, Pages 1 & 2: We saw first hand how tough government cuts could be in February, when there was talk of Graves Art Gallery becoming the highest-profile casualty of Sheffield City Council’s proposals to make £84 million of cuts over 2011.

Kirkwood respite care home also faced the axe, along with Rushey Meadow for disabled children.

Other plans involved cutting park ranger numbers from 22 to 16, axing 25 Police Community Support Officers, slashing mobile libraries from four to one, and increasing charges for parking and social services. Sandra Newton, chair of Museums Sheffield – which runs Graves Gallery – said at the time that while “no firm decisions” had been made, absorbing the £328,000 cut in its £3 million annual council funding would be “almost impossible without reducing services”.

She anticipated that savings would have had to come from reducing staff, exhibitions or buildings. Closing Graves Gallery, which houses high-value art and other treasures bequeathed to the city, was also considered as an option.

Thankfully, the gallery survived the cuts, with Sheffield-born stars Michael Palin, Roy Hattersley and Simon Beckett joining the chorus of calls to save Graves.

Despite having to axe opening hours, a reduction in the amount the council is cutting its budget by means that the doors to one of the city’s oldest galleries can stay open.

21.02.11, Page 3: The Star told the story of South Yorkshire’s youngest midwife when quick-thinking schoolgirl Lauren Burman, aged just seven, helped deliver her baby sister.

Lauren put her books aside to become an emergency medic in February when her mum Clair, aged 28, went into labour with little sister Charley.

After hearing her mum scream, she dashed upstairs and sprang into action when the baby’s head started to show. After helping her mum onto the bed, Lauren rushed frantically across the road and called on neighbour Linda Platts, 47.

The pair dialled 999 for paramedics, but impatient Charley made a high-speed appearance, weighing in at 5lb 13oz.

Frighteningly, the baby immediately had trouble breathing as the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck.

But cool-headed Lauren helped Linda untangle the distressed newborn and clear her mouth – and seconds later Charley let out a gasp and began breathing normally.

Lauren, speaking afterwards to The Star at the family home in Rotherham, grinned: “When Charley’s older I’ll tell her how I was there when she was born and I was the first person to see her. I will remember that day for the rest of my life. She’s the best sister I could have asked for.”

But the little girl admitted: “At first it was a bit weird and disgusting – but then it got scary.”

Relieved mum Clair said: “After putting me on the bed Lauren tried to keep me calm but, seeing the head coming out, she realised it was very real.

“It was a real race against time and there must have been someone up there looking down on me.

“Lauren was being more sensible than I was because I was panicking.

“She was fantastic and kept her head, and thanks to Lauren everything turned out perfectly.

“Now she keeps saying, ‘Me and my sister are going to have a really close bond now that I helped save her life’. And Lauren says she wants to be a midwife when she grows up.

“We watched the medical show Holby City together afterwards and Lauren watched and said, ‘I can do that’!”

24.02.11, Pages 8 & 9: CONTROVeRSIAL plans to put a steel fence around Sheffield City Hall emerged ahead of the annual Liberal Democrat conference.

The three-day gathering over the weekend of March 11 to 13 bought around 1,800 conference delegates and their families to the city, filling hotels, restaurants and shops.

It is also estimated that £2million was drained from the police authority budget as officers’ leave was cancelled and hundreds of police – including armed officers – were deployed to maintain security.

While Sheffield may have gained in terms of cash through the tills, policing bills for an authority that has announced 127 job losses with an estimated 700 more over four years are still going to be a financial strain.

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told a Star reporter at a ‘question and answer’ session at Ponds Forge on Monday 21 February: “I am not going to apologise for bringing the conference to Sheffield.”

“I think it’s a good thing for people to come to Sheffield and see how good it is – it is our chance to showcase the city.

“What the city will gain in revenue will far outweigh the cost.

“There will be a cost no matter where the conference is held but it is a chance for Sheffield to gain.”

The conference was the most high profile Sheffield has hosted since a G8 summit meeting in 2005.

The cost of policing the event came from police reserves.

City Council chief executive John Mothersole said at the time: “It’s a ‘game-changing’ conference for Sheffield.

“It means Sheffield can prove it can cope with the big conferences – not just the political ones.

“But that is the level we need to be looking to bring to the city.

“It’s five years since we re-vamped Sheffield City Hall – we wanted to reposition the City Hall as a major conference centre.”

Much of Barkers Pool was fenced off for the conference, and there were 1,000 police on duty over the 24 hours of the busiest day.