“The electorate expects the councillors to work on their behalf in an open and transparent manner”

This letter sent to the Star was written by Cyril Olsen, Busk Meadow, Sheffield, S5

Friday, 13th March 2020, 12:22 pm

Some readers may view the Star newspaper as being composed of mainly local community related content, with a dearth of national topics to gain their added interest. As a regional newspaper this is understandable and perhaps excusable by the coverage given to readers letters in the daily two page 'Let's Talk' feature where many varied topics of local and national interest are published at the Editor's discretion.

The purpose of any newspaper is to inform their readers of all the latest news be it of local and/or national/international interest. Allied to this purpose is the relative publication also assisting readers where appropriate by taking up a community cause for complaint. In this case, seeking to have a local council reveal information relative to the Star 6.3.2020 front page banner headline "TOP SECRET - the information your council will not let you see."

Local Democracy Reporter Molly Williams pens an admirable article "Anger at tree felling secrecy" in which it is alleged that Sheffield Council bosses and senior councillors tried to stop dozens of emails about controversial plans relating to tree felling from being released under the Freedom of Information Act. This revelation comes about thanks to the tenacity of public spirited street tree activist Marcus Combie for which he deserves our thanks.

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Trees have been felled in Dore, Sheffield

While taking a neutral stance over the rights and wrongs of the two sided argument, as one who elects SCC councillors I am deeply concerned that this alleged /substantiated happening may have taken place under the auspices of the ruling Labour council Leader, senior councillors and the then chief executive officer of the council.

Our local council is elected by the community members and is accountable to them as a last resort via the ballot box. The electorate expects the councillors to work on their behalf in an open and transparent manner. It is acceptable for a National Government to withhold information from the public, because revelation would be a threat to our security or cause unwanted panic in the streets. However, the felling of trees in Sheffield hardly comes under this category!

The Information Commissioner spokesman states that "an investigation would need to be undertaken to determine if what officers and councillors did was illegal, and that anyone can request an internal review." Before taking this course of action, may I respectfully request that on behalf of your 350,000 weekly readers the crusading Star contacts the SCC Leader to offer her the opportunity to respond on its behalf to the content of your featured article and justify the steps already taken - based on the council response further public action may be considered if necessary.