"A great opportunity for Sheffield to vote for change"

This letter sent to the Star was written by Graham Marsden, Old Park Road, Greenhill, S8

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 10:44 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:54 am
Michael Gove visiting Sheffield after expressing concerns about the city's tree-felling policy.

Sheffield has a proud tradition of being at the forefront of radical campaigns to challenge and redistribute vested powers for the benefit of all its citizens.

These campaigns were often courageously undertaken with a strong partnership between the council and the city’s communities. Sadly, this partnership no longer exists. What’s gone wrong?

Last Saturday, January 25, a celebration was held under the ‘Gove’ tree in Kenwood Road to mark the lifting of the council imposed injunction to prevent protesters from standing under safe mature street trees to stop their unnecessary felling.

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The next day was the AGM and a packed meeting of the ‘It’s Our City’ group that is campaigning to make Sheffield City Council change to a more open and accountable way in which it conducts its business. What connects these two events?

Both are community led campaigns that are challenging the council’s abuse of its powers.

The tree campaigners have successfully fought for five years, fending off the vilification, lies, arrests and intimidation of the increasingly heavy handed tactics adopted by the Labour council in partnership with the police and Amey.

At a time of government imposed cuts and austerity, these tactics used up a staggering £80,000 of the city’s budget, let alone the huge amount of wasted officer time and legal costs, and to what end?

For the council to finally agree to a street tree management programme in consultation with the affected communities, which is all that the Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) asked for in the first place.

So far, in an ongoing process, all the trees out of those jointly inspected have been saved from the axe.

During the last two years ‘It’s Our City’ has collected 26,419 signatures, requesting the council to get rid of the model of a ‘Strong Leader’ and a cabinet of just ten councillors making all the decisions.

Similar community led initiatives in towns and cities across the UK have resulted in their councils changing the cabinet model before the petitions were submitted to automatically trigger an expensive referendum that could cost up to £200,000.

But not our council, despite this being the preferred course of action by the ‘It’s Our City’ group.

So there will now be a referendum in May, which despite the country’s referendum fatigue is actually a great opportunity for Sheffield to vote for change.

The Labour council’s response to these two grass roots campaigns demonstrates just how far Councillor Dore has ruthlessly and tragically led it away from openness and accountability. She and her cabinet have been corrupted by power, craving to hold on to it at all costs. The biggest cost has been the erosion of confidence in local democracy and our elected politicians. Let’s see Sheffield get rid of this corruption where the council has become the entrenched establishment. Let’s see Sheffield regain its truly radical traditions with an honest Council working in tandem with the communities it serves. Let’s vote for change.