Council’s performance

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Susan Richardson may love Sheffield’s condemned trees but I think she loves condemning its Labour Council even more (Letters, December 7).

Indeed, I suspect she checks to see what the council’s policy is on any given subject before voicing her opinions. It wouldn’t do to be caught agreeing with Sheffield’s elected representatives, would it?

Of course there will always be plenty for any reasonable person to take issue with regarding a council’s performance. The present one is certainly going through a rough patch, its ability to shoot itself in the foot at the drop of a tree being only the most notable of its recent travails.

Nevertheless, even justified criticism of the council should be placed in its political and economic context. Sheffield has been for several years on the receiving end of savagely punitive Tory cuts (with further punishment to come). Some of the council’s floundering stems from this crippling circumstance. For Susan Richardson and others like her, ‘austerity’ is the elephant in the room: a hulking presence they’re determined to ignore, even when it’s urinating on the carpet and trumpeting ‘that’ll teach Sheffield’ in their ears.

Many of the brickbats aimed at Sheffield Council in these pages seem to be motivated by a generalised dislike of the Labour Party. Yet few complainants are prepared to identify the forces that would better protect the remaining fabric of civilised life in Sheffield from further damage by the agents of a ruthless market fundamentalism. With the exception of the Greens, Labour’s opposition exhibits little understanding of the causes of the poverty and inequality blighting the lives of so many people.

The council leadership, however, must accept the need for self-criticism. To make decisions first and ‘consult’ the voters only when the fan has been sprayed is not a good way of doing things. Indeed it smacks of an old-fashioned centralism that is out of kilter with the aims and values of the present Labour movement.

If the council continues to indicate that it views the electorate with suspicion, if it continues to move between the poles of complacency and panic, the future for the Labour Party in Sheffield will not be a bright one and a difficult job can only get harder.

Kevin Hanson