Vince Cable - "Lib Dems will be running Sheffield within five years'
Five years from now Sheffield City Council will once again be in Lib Dem control, while the party will again be representation part of the city in the House of Commons.
So said party leader Vince Cable as he popped into the party’s Cemetery Road headquarters to congratulate activists and councillors on recent gains in the local elections.
There is a sense of optimism in the room - spurred on by ongoing public anger at the lack of transparency on offer from the authority’s ruling Labour Cabinet, on matters from tree-felling to the group’s dealings with Chinese investors.
But there is also a feeling that the Lib Dems are on their way back, after Nick Clegg’s disastrous dealings with the Conservatives took the party almost to the brink.
“Five years from now we will have had a general election and I am sure we will have a Liberal Democrat MP representing Sheffield again in Parliament, and I would be very disappointed if we weren’t running the city by that stage as well,” he said.
“We took three seats back this year and will make more progress next year throughout the city. We want to run Sheffield and we will again, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
“The Labour cabinet are not making any friends over this toxic issue with the trees - it’s just no way to run local government.”
Mr Cable also waded into Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara - describing him as ‘ineffective’ and calling for him to step down in a speech to party activists. The remarks prompted an almost immediate response from Mr O’Mara, issuing a statement saying that he had no intention of stepping down.
At the local elections this month Mohammed Mahroof took Crookes and Crosspool while Mike Levery won West Ecclesfield - both from Labour. Gail Smith also comfortably held on to Mosborough - won in a recent by-election.
Labour also lost out to the Greens, and Mr Cable told party members that “grown up politics was the way forward” - working with other parties for mutual enhancement.
Councillor Mahroof said the Lib Dems offer a more forward-thinking approach to politics than on offer from the current administration.
“People are looking for change for Sheffield,” he said. “They want the city to be compared with Leeds and Manchester. As a city we don’t want to get left behind.
“Sheffield is changing. I have lived here all my life and what scares me most is the difference between the south west and the north of the city.
“In the south west a terrace house would cost about £200,000, compared to about £30,000 in the north. How can there be such a big difference in such a small geographic area?”
Coun Levery said that the collapse of UKiP had also helped him take the seat from Labour.
He said: “I think I won because I’m local to the area that I represent and I know what the issues are for the people I represent. I thought I would win but didn’t expect to win by nearly 600 votes.
“There is a lot of dissatisfaction in the north of Sheffield with the way the Labour council is run and one of the challenges now is to get this message out to Sheffield City Council.”
Councillor Adam Hanrahan, the youngest Lib Dem member on Sheffield City Council, who has just taken on the awkward shadow environment brief, said the lack of transparency by the ruling group is behind the Lib Dem’s improving fortunes.
He said: “People are buying into what the Liberal Democrats are doing. People are looking at the Labour Cabinet and wondering, ‘what are they not telling me about the Library and the Chinese investment; what are they not telling me about the Amey contract?’.
“It’s all about transparency and it’s all about empowering people. I want people to see what we’re doing. But there is no transparency at the moment. In my new role, there are questions that I need to ask about the Amey contract, and I can’t even get to see that contract. It makes the job very difficult.”
Laura Gordon will be taking on Jared O’Mara for the Sheffield Hallam Parliamentary Constituency at the next general election - the seat he took from former Party Leader Nick Clegg.
“People want to be listened to,” she said. “The Labour Cabinet is not listening to people - operating with this total disregard to local people. They want to see a change and we can offer them them that change.”