Ecclesall and Abbeydale roads parking ban: 'listen very carefully' to people of Sheffield, warns Lord Blunkett

Lord Blunkett has urged council chiefs to ‘listen very carefully’ to what people are saying about parking ban plans for two of Sheffield’s busiest roads.

By David Walsh
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 1:31 pm

They must learn how to ‘take people with them’ on climate action or risk a backlash that sets the city back years, he said.

Green measures such as bus improvements and house insulation programmes must attract people, not ‘punish’ them or be so ‘awkward’ they are rejected, he argued.

And on the proposals for Ecclesall and Abbeydale roads, he said ‘the people have answered’.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Lord Blunkett has urged council chiefs to ‘listen very carefully’ to what people are saying about plans for a parking ban on two of Sheffield’s busiest roads - or risk damaging the green agenda.

Read More

Read More
Third time lucky - Transport Secretary Grant Shapps promises rail electrificatio...

Lord Blunkett, a former Sheffield City Council leader, MP and Home Secretary, said the city will start 2022 in a better place than 12 months ago after Covid forced people to pull together.

The region is set for a new, full-time mayor in May and local authority leaders were more united than they had been for years.

Labour and the Greens, who share power to run the council, had made their co-operative work, although he joked ’politics always ends in tears’.

Lord Blunkett with guide dog Barley in Sheffield city centre.

But if they disagreed on policies the public must act as ‘mediator’.

The bus lane plans would prevent most parking on two of Sheffield’s busiest roads, in a bid to cut congestion and pollution from cars and boost walking, cycling and bus use.

They have sparked thousands of complaints form shops and small businesses who fear customers will drive elsewhere.

Lord Blunkett said: “I would listen very carefully to what people have been saying. On the green agenda you have to got to learn very quickly how to take people with you or risk doing more damage.

Sheffield's leaders must learn how to ‘take people with them’ on climate action or risk a backlash that sets the city back years, Lord Blunkett said.

“People were asked the question and they have answered.”

He added: “I don’t mind controversial policies being drawn up as long as we consult on what we are trying to achieve and consider whether there are other ways that aren’t so divisive that achieve the same goal.”

It was possible to create jobs and policies that were good for the climate and business, he added.

Most people wanted to do the right thing, he added. It was up to leaders to help them do it.

The bus lane plans would prevent most parking on two of Sheffield’s busiest roads in a bid to cut congestion and pollution from cars and boost walking, cycling and bus use.

And he called for a ‘massive’ programme of insulation and retro-fitting measures.

But he had this warning: “You can’t do it by making it so awkward people react against it and it sets us back. In the next 25 years, if you don’t get it right there will be a massive right wing reaction.”

Looking to the future, he said a ‘new mood’ was established in 2021 after people learned that leadership was needed.

He added: “You’ve got to listen, consult and then lead. Someone has to take the lead in different areas and get on with it.”

But he believed Sheffield understood its position in the world better than a year ago.

“Sheffield has begun to understand what’s good and bad about the city and get it’s projection of leadership, in the broader sense, in a place where leaders understand each other and how to do things,” he said.

They have sparked thousands of complaints form shops and small businesses who fear customers will drive elsewhere.

Mayor Dan Jarvis had the ‘impossible job’ of getting the four local authorities to work together on the devolution deal and put together a £500m funding package. His record should not be underestimated, Lord Blunkett said.

But his replacement would have a ‘vital’ role in putting a plan before government, which liked to ‘back winners’.

He added: “South Yorkshire Metropolitan Council was created in 1974 and abolished 12 years later.

“The local authorities were like ferrets fighting in a sack, they disagreed and were resentful and envious of each other.

“We are just in the processs of getting over that. The leadership in the boroughs knows that we sink or swim together. We’ve seen it in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

“Otherwise government will just bypass us.”

But he had yet to decide on his preferred candidate.

“I want to see the programme and ideas and see who can overcome that tendency that divides us,” he said.

“The mayor doesn’t have the massive infrastructure and staff that the districts have but does have the ear of government and the voice of other authorities. Uniting them in common cause is one way to do the job.”

Lord Blunkett was leader of Sheffield City Council when bus services were famously cheap in the late 1970s. It cost 10p to go anywhere in South Yorkshire and 3p in the city centre.

“It is one of the things I’m most proud of,” he said, adding, the “demolition of a coherent transport system breaks my heart”.

The golden era ended in 1986 when government banned the subsidy of buses and then privatised them.

Some 35 years later, complaints over poor services have reached boiling point – earlier this month Sheffield council leader Terry Fox called an emergency meeting with the bosses of First and Stagecoach to demand improvements – although Covid and Brexit have contributed to reduced income, passengers and drivers.

Lord Blunkett said cheap fares could return when dramatic action was needed to hit climate targets.

He added: “It needs to be a genuine effort to make buses more attractive, rather than punishing people for using their car and it needs a big investment of cash.”

In Sheffield there is a growing clamour to take public control of buses, while some want a return to full public ownership.

But Lord Blunkett claimed shared ownership could work.

“You could still have the investment an dynamics of the private sector and the co-operation and collaboration of the public sector,” he said.

He also told how he would be ‘very surprised’ if Boris Johnson was Prime Minister at the next election.

“The massive fraud, gross incompetence and confusion haven’t cut through. But the parties and sheer hypocrisy are translating into disgust,” he said.

The results of the Covid-19 public inquiry, chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, would be ‘critical’ in bringing down the Boris Johnson regime, he argued.

To continue holding the powerful to account and giving people a voice, The Star needs you to subscribe, please.