Sheffield Council parties in talks on power sharing as beleaguered Labour team tries to focus on priorities
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The parties are having discussions ahead of the council’s annual meeting on Wednesday (May 17), when the new council leader and deputy leader plus policy committee chairs will be decided.
Labour has not yet announced the election of its new council group leadership after Coun Terry Fox was forced to resign in the wake of the street tree-felling scandal and said he will not stand for re-election. Deputy council leader Coun Julie Grocutt also stepped down.
The party put Sheffield Labour into special measures and imposed a campaign improvement board, which only came to light publicly on Friday, May 5, the day of the election count. It is understood that Labour councillors will be voting for their leadership and key posts but the process will be carefully managed by the regional party.
Labour is still the biggest political group on the council with 39 seats out of 84 in total. The LibDems have 29 councillors and Greens have 14 and there is also one Conservative and one independent. Labour lost Hillsborough to the Greens on May 4 and gained Nether Edge and Sharrow from that party.
Anger at Labour’s handling of the street trees scandal came to the fore in the council chamber last week, when the hard-hitting Lowcock Report was discussed. Other divisive issues include Fargate Container Park, the clean air zone and red line proposals on Abbeydale and Ecclesall Roads.
A spokeswoman said that the Labour group has put transport, housing and devolution of power to local communities at the forefront of its talks with the Liberal Democrat and Green parties.
Sheffield Labour says it is backing the efforts led by South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard to overhaul the city’s public transport by bringing control of the system back into public control, meaning the city will be able to determine bus routes, the fares and the frequency, instead of the private operator.
The party says it is also “putting housing high on the agenda, with plans to prioritise combatting the repairs crisis within social housing, reducing costs and making housing safe, energy efficient and affordable for tenants to live in”.
Labour also wants to devolve powers on local issues, empowering local communities to make decisions on issues such as road safety, youth services and parks.
Coun Fran Belbin, Labour group secretary, said: “Sheffield Labour is entering these negotiations with the people of Sheffield at the very forefront of our minds. Labour will always be on the side of working people and we’re prioritising the issues that are impacting our city the most in the cost of living crisis.
“It is undeniable that our city’s public transport system is broken, stunting the growth of our local economy and making journeys to work and school more difficult than they should be. It needs urgent action, as does the housing crisis, and ensuring that local communities have power when it comes to decisions that really impact that particular area, such as road safety and youth services.
“In a situation such as this, where no party has majority control, it is crucial that we enter negotiations with a spirit of transparency and collaboration. In light of the Lowcock report this is ever more important for us, and Sheffield Labour will continue to bring those values to everything we do for the people of Sheffield.”