Today’s Star columnist, Nick Clegg: Time to collect what is owed

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
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As someone who has been campaigning on this issue since gritting cuts in West Sheffield were announced in the summer, I was delighted that the Labour-run council finally gave into our pressure and announced a U-turn. Even without cutting the gritting budget the council struggled to keep our city moving over the Christmas period.

I want to thank readers who have helped to keep up the pressure, including the 1,500 who signed our petition.

Whilst I’m delighted that our campaign has been successful, it’s unacceptable that it took some particularly nasty accidents until Labour councillors in the Town Hall were forced into their U-turn. The original decision wasn’t thought through and it’s outrageous that the safety of local residents can be held in such contempt.

Whilst our roads will be gritted this winter, the council have said that they will undertake another review at the end of the cold weather season. Please be assured that, along with local Liberal Democrat councillors, I will resurrect our campaign if the council try to cut back on this important local service in the future.

Readers may remember Labour councillors writing to The Star in their droves to claim that cutting the gritting service was the only option and, given the reduction in national funding, there was no alternative. It has now been proved that was just a smokescreen designed to pass the blame onto someone else.

While money is tight for all local authorities, Sheffield City Council continues to receive one of the highest allocations from central government and it will continue to do so. It’s also worth considering the council are owed a shocking £39m in unpaid council tax, making Sheffield amongst the worst in the country for collecting debt.

Now that Ed Miliband has confirmed that Labour would not return a single penny to Sheffield if they win the next General Election, it’s time for their local councillors to confess that there is no quick-fix solution on the horizon. If we want to have good local services and see council tax bills kept down for those that do pay, then we need a local council to start collecting what is owed.