Council Leader under mounting pressure over tree protester court case

Coun Julie Dore
Coun Julie Dore
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Sheffield Council saw an unprecedented and volatile meeting as its Leader was quizzed about prosecutions against tree campaigns - while four protesters stood in court just a couple of miles away.

The Lib Dems demanded to know when Leader Julie Dore had been asked to give her support and approval for the legal proceedings.

It was a volatile meeting at Sheffield full council

It was a volatile meeting at Sheffield full council

They, along with the Greens, also repeatedly asked Cabinet member Coun Lewis Dagnall when he had been briefed on the proceedings and if he had spoken to officers before appearing on Radio Sheffield last week.

Mr Justice Males stopped the High Court hearing on Tuesday to ask whether the legal action against the protesters had the support of the Council Leader. Yaaser Vanderman, on behalf of the council, told the judge that Coun Dore "positively agreed that proceedings should be brought."

At full council yesterday, a member of the public asked Coun Dore at what point she had become involved in the decision. Coun Dore said because the court case was still active, she had to be careful with her response.

But she went on to say: “In relation to this, I was contacted following a request for clarification from the judge to ask if I agreed to the case being brought forward and my reply was that I do, I did.

“I respect the process that was followed that led to this decision and think it’s important that this process is respected. The council is involved in many legal actions relating to a wide range of issues and it would be a very dangerous precedent to set for elected councillors to make decisions about bringing forward cases against individuals. It is right that the decisions are made independently and objectively by professional officers.

Lib Dem Leader Coun Mohammed was then given permission to ask an emergency question not on the agenda. He asked Coun Dore when was she asked to support and give her approval for the legal proceedings. He also asked when Coun Dore had informed her Cabinet colleagues, including Coun Dagnall, that she had been involved and had given her approval.

Coun Dore replied: “I have answered that question. I did say the Cabinet member had been briefed.”

Coun Mohammed replied: “I want specific dates - why are you dodging the question?

Mayor Magid Magid called for order as the chamber erupted. Chief executive John Mothersole was called to clarify a point of order but he sat back down after some councillors yelled “rubbish” as he spoke.

After questioning from Lib Dem Coun Adam Hanrahan, Cabinet member Lewis Dagnall said he would take advice from officers “whenever necessary to discharge my duties”.

When Coun Hanrahan pressed him on whether he had taken advice specifically on these legal proceedings, Coun Dagnall replied: “Questions relating to legal processes, particularly ones which are still active, are especially sensitive and it’s important as a council we follow due process.”

The attention then turned to Coun Lewis Dagnall’s interview on Radio Sheffield last week when he said the legal proceedings had been pursued by officers, not elected members.

Green councillor Rob Murphy asked Coun Lewis when did he become aware of the legal proceedings, and Coun Lewis said several months ago when he read about them in the media

Coun Murphy then said he would clarify his question - when, as a Cabinet member, had Coun Lewis become aware? Coun Lewis replied: “It was formally made aware to me after my Cabinet appointment.”

Last week Coun Dagnall told Radio Sheffield he had no part in the legal action saying "There's a separation of powers between an independent civil service and elected politicians”