Stunned Sheffield Labour councillors ordered to re-apply for jobs in 'purge' by high command
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Members have until midnight on Wednesday (May 10) to confirm their interest in more than 10 senior positions on the city council, The Star understands. It comes after Labour’s national high command forced out leader Terry Fox and put the group into ‘special measures’.
Positions include council leader, deputy leader, chief whip, group chair, secretary and treasurer, and chairs of committees for children, transport and finance - all usually elected by the local Labour group.
A ‘campaign improvement board’ was installed following a series of high-profile issues including the tree-felling scandal and failure of the Container Park - amid a falling share of votes which has left the authority with no overall control. It is understood some councillors plan to resign, or not apply, in protest.
A Labour councillor, who asked not to be named, said they felt angry, disillusioned and disenfranchsied.
They added: “No one from London or the board has spoken to us. Some have received three emails telling them they have to re-apply. I’m fuming, but we’ve been threatened with expulsion if we speak out or disagree. It’s a purge.”
The Star understands the names of veteran councillor Jayne Dunn and newcomer Tom Hunt keep coming up in discussions about a new leader. And South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard has been brought in to handle post-election negotiations with the Lib Dems and Greens. There are 39 Labour councillors on Sheffield City Council, the Lib Dems have 29 and the Greens 14.
The first public sign of Labour’s central office involvement was when Coun Bryan Lodge - who was in charge of the tree-felling programme - announced his resignation as co-chair of the finance committee last month. He made no mention of trees. But national officials inserted a paragraph stating his position was ‘completely untenable’ after the Lowcock report - and expressed frustration at his resistance to resigning, describing it as a ‘massive distraction’.
Sheffield Labour yesterday put out a statement saying it needed to win back trust following “important and avoidable mistakes.”
Last week, Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed urged the Greens to back him as council leader, saying the new Labour leadership would be “carefully selected” by the party’s national office.