Which is the most pressing topic for Sheffield Council – Brexit or austerity?
That’s the question after councillors locked horns over a special meeting of the full council this week.
Once a year, Sheffield has a scrutiny council where normal business is suspended to give members time to hear a presentation then discuss and debate the subject in depth.
But the Green Party has criticised Labour over Wednesday’s topic – the Greens wanted a debate on Brexit while Labour has opted for public health and the impact of austerity.
Green councillor Douglas Johnson said: “Normally the overview and scrutiny management committee, which is cross party, has the job of deciding the topic and it chose Brexit.
“The committee wanted to call officers to explain what the council is doing to prepare for the possibility of Brexit.
“It’s disappointing to see Labour has stopped councillors having their say on Brexit. It’s not very democratic when the committee is overruled by the people it is meant to scrutinise. It is yet another example of how Labour controls elected councillors behind the scenes.
“Normally January is the only scrutiny council now so there isn’t really a slot for a Brexit debate to take place in February as we will be back to the usual motions then.
“The January meeting would be timely, as the debate is going on in Parliament now and everyone is talking about it.”
Council Leader Julie Dore hit back, saying the Greens were “out of touch” if they thought austerity wasn’t important.
“We will be having a presentation on the impact that austerity has had and continues to have as a city,” she said.
“Since 2010 we have had our government funding cut by over 50 percent and have seen the government’s inhumane welfare cuts hit hardest the poorest in our city on top of cuts to vital public services such as the police.
“You can’t inflict this without it having a serious impact on people’s lives and it is important that we get a comprehensive analysis and discussion about how this is impact on our city and how we can respond to it to give the greatest amount of protection we can to everyone in Sheffield, particularly the most vulnerable people.
“It is unbelievable that the Greens do not think it is important to debate the impact of austerity in Sheffield and by doing so ignoring the impact it has had on people across our city. If the Greens do not think this is an important issue it shows just how out of touch they have become about people’s lives.”
Coun Dore added that there had been “numerous debates” on Brexit, the most recent in October.
“This is an important issue and I am sure it will be debated again in the future. However, at this moment in time there is no certainty about the outcome of the Brexit process because the Government withdrew the vote in parliament before Christmas.
“This means that at this stage it is hard to provide council with a meaningful analysis of the likely implications for Sheffield.”