The contract, which is said to be for ‘external legal advice to set up and run an independent tree inquiry’ started in August and is set to run until February 15, 2023.
It will see Sheffield City Council pay the law firm an estimated total of £150,000 – although the overall budget for the investigation has not been confirmed.
This comes less than a week after SCC announced it would be seeking the voluntary redundancy and early retirement of employees, as well as increasing next year’s council tax rates, to plug a £62.3m hole in its budget deficit.
And the £62.3m figure was announced as the council said it had already made £35.7m in ‘savings’ to bring the budget gap down from an initial £98m before savings.
The inquiry into the tree-felling scandal will begin on March 22. The council is currently on the hunt for an independent chair.
The inquiry was confirmed in May this year, following the latest SCC election, as the Greens assumed shared leadership of the city council with Labour.
It relates to a saga which saw the council, in partnership with highways management contractor Amey, fell thousands of street trees in Sheffield and replace them with saplings.
Protestors argued that many of the trees were healthy and sought to prevent their felling. The dispute came to a head in 2018 when police and private security accompanied Amey workers to the sites of the fellings and protests.