Labour under pressure to reveal policy

LABOUR politicians in Sheffield have come under pressure to reveal whether they will reinstate a strategy which directs funding to the poorest areas of the city if they win back the council in May.

Liberal Democrat councillors, who currently hold the council by just one seat, have long criticised Labour's former Closing the Gap policy of channelling funding towards the more deprived areas of the city.

The strategy - tagged the 'favoured areas policy' by their Lib Dem opponents - has been criticised for benefiting areas where Labour has the most councillors.

The Lib Dems have used an alternative system where a third of the pot is distributed evenly between the city's community assemblies and topped up with the remainder according to need.

Labour leader Julie Dore has not revealed whether the policy will be on her party's manifesto for May's election - but Lib Dems say an online posting by Labour Coun Jack Scott suggests they are considering reinstating the strategy.

Coun Scott made the post on the microblogging site Twitter after a full council meeting where the policy was debated.

He said: "Disgusting motion by ConDems, attacking Labour for investing more money in poorest areas."

Deputy Lib Dem leader Coun David Baker said: "Local people will remember that Labour's unpopular favoured areas policy neglected vast swathes of Sheffield. It simply wasn't fair to concentrate funding and services in the north east of the city at the expense of the rest of Sheffield.

"The idea of prioritising basic council services such as street cleaning, fixing potholes and repairing street lights on the basis of favoured areas is simply wrong. That's why we scrapped it in 2008 and put in a system of 'worst first'."

But Labour leader Coun Dore dismissed the claim as "outrageous scaremongering".

She said: "Labour do not have a favoured areas policy.

"We believe in prioritising services to the areas that need them most. As far as I'm concerned that's just common sense."

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