I must finally write to voice my views in the latest turn in the scandalous behaviour of the council in relation to their plans to fell Street trees under the Streets Ahead PFI contract with Amey and their treatment of the many thousands of Sheffield people who object to it.
It seems that an Independent Tree Panel has been set up by Coun Terry Fox, (Sheffield City Council Cabinet Member for the Environment and Transport), and that will look into keeping condemned healthy, mature roadside trees against the advice of opposition councillors and many others.
Although at first sight this panel might seem to be a good idea, it is rife with difficulties and unanswered questions:
Firstly, who is on this independent panel? If the answer to this is only people chosen by the council surely this is biased?
If there are any members on the panel defending the current arrangements then surely they should be balanced by people who hold an alternative view? How many members of the panel have been suggested and accepted by the tree campaigning residents?
Secondly, who is paying for this panel? And how much?
Thirdly, what are their relevant qualifications or relevant expertise?
Fourthly, the council is saying this panel will only consider cases where more than 50 per cent of residents who have been written to by Coun Fox have responded and registered their disagreement with the council’s plans to cut down a tree.
If this 50 per cent mark is NOT reached, the trees will be scheduled for felling as planned regardless of whether the tree panel would have given it a reprieve.
If the panel decides it should not be cut down, Coun Fox will still have the final say.
Is this what the council calls democracy? I don’t think this balanced or fair.
I do think it is an attempt to suggest fairness and even handedness when it is exactly the opposite.
If Coun Fox thinks it is fair I suggest he considers the following:
The status quo for many decades is we had these trees on our roadside. We have a duty of care to the environment and the simple principle should be, we shouldn’t take steps to change the environment unless we are sure it is for the better and it will not in balance do harm.
Surely if you accept this, if there is any voting to be done it should be to prove a case for the felling and not to accept felling WILL take place and then force a requirement of a vote to stop it.
Even then the panel should sit to see if there is any way to save the tree, not sit only if is not to be chopped down.
If Coun Fox still thinks this is a fair and balanced way of going about things. I suggest he applies the same logic to himself.
The status quo is he has been a councillor representing the people of Sheffield.
So let’s disregard a duty of respect and care for him and his position.
Letters should be sent out stating he WILL be removed from his position and replaced by a younger, smaller person more in tune with the views of the people of Sheffield, and this will happen if less than 50 per cent respond and say he should not be removed. If this 50 per cent mark is NOT reached he should resign or be fired.
If more than 50 per cent think he should stay then it should be turned over to an ‘Independent Coun Fox Panel’. The people in this panel would be chosen by people who hold the view that he treats the views of the people Sheffield with contempt.
The same people should choose who to send the letters to for the vote.
Finally if the panel still decides he should not go, the final say would still be decided by those who think he should go.
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