Sheffield Labour leadership missing from special tree felling inquiry meeting amid ‘purge’
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The party was in power for most of the controversial saga but all of its leadership seats were left empty in the important meeting.
The absence of senior leadership and front bench caused confusion and sparked criticism especially from those who came to ask questions of Labour.
Rebecca Hammond, who spoke in the meeting on behalf of Sheffield Tree Action Group, said: “We are extremely disappointed by the absence of certain key people today notwithstanding the excuses or explanations that have been offered particularly as some of them played significant roles in the dispute.
“They should be here today to be part of the resolution and hear the apology that the Lord Mayor has given on their behalf.”
All Labour councillors who held leadership roles were forced to re-apply for their positions this week after the party was put in special measures by Labour HQ following failures including the tree felling scandal. One Labour councillor called it a “purge”.
A Labour spokesperson confirmed members of the group were putting themselves forward for leadership roles and following a shortlisting process, the group would elect new leadership during its annual general meeting on Monday.
They said: “The street trees dispute and the subsequent Lowcock report exposed serious mistakes at the hands of the previous Labour administration. We have listened to the people of Sheffield, and we are taking action to bring new leadership to restore their faith and trust in Labour locally.”
Sir Lowcock’s long-awaited report – which was commissioned as part of a power sharing deal between Labour and the Green Party when the former lost control of the council – sought “truth and reconciliation” following the infamous Streets Ahead programme that aimed to fell 17,500 street trees as part of a £2.2 billion contract between the council and Amey.
The report showed the council overstretched its authority in taking drastic action against campaigners, had serious and sustained failures in leadership and misled the public, courts and an independent panel it set up to deal with the dispute.
The council reiterated its apology at the meeting and passed a motion committing itself to implement Sir Mark’s recommendations for improvement.