Sheffield Labour councillors elect new leader

Sheffield Labour has elected Walkley councillor Tom Hunt as the new Labour group leader, who has promised a ‘fresh start’ for the party locally after the last leader was forced to quit in the wake of the street trees scandal.
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The group also elected Park and Arbourthorne Coun Ben Miskell and Firth Park member Coun Fran Belbin as deputy leaders. They replace Coun Jayne Grocutt, who stood down.

As the most senior councillor in place at the time, Coun Belbin last week apologised on behalf of the council Labour group about the party’s conduct over the street trees issue, which the group now acknowledges is one of the key reasons that the party has lost the trust of the public.

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Coun Hunt will no doubt be seen as a safe pair of hands by the party. He is deputy director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield, researching into industrial relations and trade unions.

Walkley councillor Tom Hunt had promised a 'fresh start' as the new leader of Sheffield City Council's Labour groupWalkley councillor Tom Hunt had promised a 'fresh start' as the new leader of Sheffield City Council's Labour group
Walkley councillor Tom Hunt had promised a 'fresh start' as the new leader of Sheffield City Council's Labour group

The new leader, who joined the council last year, also ran a successful campaign for Coun Abtisam Mohamed to stand for Labour in Sheffield Central. Current MP Paul Blomfield is retiring at the next general election.

News broke on the day of the council elections count on Friday, May 5, that Labour leader Terry Fox had been told by the party to step down. It emerged that Sheffield Labour had already been put into ‘special measures’ by the party leadership and a central team had been brought in to take over running the election campaign.

Key roles

One of Coun Hunt’s first jobs is to negotiate with other parties about who will take on key roles as the council remains under no overall control, which has been the case since 2021. Labour are the biggest group, followed by the LibDems and Greens.

Coun Ben Miskell has been elected as one of two new deputy chairs of Sheffield City Council's Labour groupCoun Ben Miskell has been elected as one of two new deputy chairs of Sheffield City Council's Labour group
Coun Ben Miskell has been elected as one of two new deputy chairs of Sheffield City Council's Labour group
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Tomorrow (Wednesday, May 17) is the council’s annual meeting, when the new council leader and deputy leader plus policy committee chairs will be agreed.

Coun Hunt said: “For several years the people of Sheffield have made clear at the ballot box that they had lost their faith in Labour locally. Trust has been lost and the new leadership has been elected to rebuild it.

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“Our city is facing major challenges. Our local economy is stagnating, living standards have been crippled in a cost of living crisis and our public services are broken.

Coun Fran Belbin has also been elected as one of two new deputy chairs of Sheffield City Council's Labour groupCoun Fran Belbin has also been elected as one of two new deputy chairs of Sheffield City Council's Labour group
Coun Fran Belbin has also been elected as one of two new deputy chairs of Sheffield City Council's Labour group

“Now more than ever we need strong leadership to improve lives across Sheffield. Whilst Labour does not have a mandate to lead alone this year, I will lead our negotiations with opposition parties with a spirit of collaboration and transparency in order to get the best outcomes for local people.”

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“Today the work begins to restore the faith in Sheffield Labour. We have entered a new era with fresh leadership, values and ideas, and begin the journey to regain majority control of the council and transform the city alongside a Labour mayor and Labour government.”

New leaders

Here are the other leadership roles elected at the Sheffield Labour AGM:

Group chair, Coun Minesh Parekh

Deputy mayor, Coun Jayne Dunn

Group secretary, Coun Nabeela Mowlana

Chief whip, Coun Sioned-Mair Richards, who has just retired as lord mayor

Group treasurer, Coun Alison Norris