The court has given its judgment in the Council’s application to commit Green Councillor Alison Teal to prison. The court’s judgment can be downloaded here (pdf).
Sheffield Greens were delighted last Friday 27th October when a High Court Judge, Mr Justice Stephen Males, threw out a legal case brought against Cllr Alison Teal by Sheffield City Council. The Labour Council accused the Green representative of Nether Edge and Sharrow of breaching an injunction against peaceful tree felling protests in the city.
Cllr Teal denied breaking the terms of the injunction, and her innocence was confirmed by the Court without Alison even having to take to the witness stand. She is now calling for the Council to be held accountable for their expensive, politically motivated, and needless legal action against her and other Sheffield residents opposed to their tree felling programme.
Speaking after the case, Cllr Teal said,
“I am of course delighted to be exonerated by the Judge, who was clear that I had not breached the terms of the injunction that he granted earlier this year.
“But the case should never have been brought about. I have been and continue to be completely compliant with the terms of the injunction, and this was reflected in the quite frankly embarrassing and pathetic failed attempts by the Council’s 10 lawyers and two barristers to argue that I had. Further, I and the whole tree campaign have been consistently calling for dialogue and discussion with the Council, but they continue to be uninterested in talking to us.
“Instead, the Labour administration prefer to waste enormous sums of money, time, and effort pursuing legal action and bullying tactics against those who oppose them, rather than sit down and talk to try and find a way forwards.
“Sheffield City Council has spent a huge amount of taxpayers’ money attempting to convince the judge that I broke the injunction, assembling an enormous legal team with the aim of imprisoning me for something I did not do. I regret that they chose to take that needless, aggressive, and wasteful choice of action.”
Fellow Green Councillor Douglas Johnson, who supported Cllr Teal’s legal team, also commented,
“We have seen no other cases where a local authority has sought an injunction and tried to imprison one of its own elected Councillors over a political dispute, which the court agreed was peaceful protest throughout. This action comes on top of the Labour Councillors voting Alison out of a full Council meeting, and complaints pursued against Alison by senior council officers.”
“The court also heard how the Council had changed the words of the formal court order from what the judge actually ordered to what one officer described as ‘the spirit of the judgement.’ This attempt to mislead campaigners is dishonest and quite frankly disgraceful.”
Green Party Peer Jenny Jones is set to visit Sheffield on Friday 27th October in support of Green Councillor Alison Teal and local residents Calvin Payne and Siobhan O’Malley, who Sheffield council want to send to prison for their part in the peaceful protest by tree campaigners.
The Labour Council accuses Cllr Teal and her fellow defendants of protesting inside safety barriers, and is seeking prison sentences. Cllr Teal vehemently denies the allegations, insisting that she has she complied fully with the terms of the court order.
Alison has been receiving messages of support from people up and down the country, including many politicians, campaigners, and journalists.
The nature of the case, in which a Council is seeking to jail one of its own Councillors over a political issue, is unprecedented.
Baroness Jones, who has worked and campaigned on civil liberties for many years, will join supporters and tree campaigners outside Sheffield Combined Courts on Friday from 9:45am.
Baroness Jones commented,
“I urge Labour’s logging council to wake up to the destruction they are causing to Sheffield’s green heritage and end their unjustified legal action against Alison Teal and her fellow activists.
“Alison is an inspiration, committed to saving the trees and the Sheffield that she loves. This council’s attempt to bring down hundreds of trees in their city has no democratic, ecological, or popular basis for support – and they know it. Even in their own, much maligned and discredited survey, less than 10% of households responded indicating that they supported the Council’s disastrous tree felling plans. There is no mandate for what they are doing.
“I will be coming to Sheffield especially on Friday to support Alison and to make it clear that Alison is not only on the front line of a fight for her city but for democracy and accountability nationwide.”
Sheffield’s Green and Lib Dem councillors have called in a decision by Council Leader Julie Dore to cut litter clearance and remove vegetation from council land. The decision which modifies the Highway’s PFI contract has been taken without consultation and using trials that involved no publicity.
In a report, the Council said, “It is likely that residents will notice an increase in litter” as well as calling the current service “gold plated”.
Cllr. Penny Baker, Lib Dem deputy leader, said,
“Back in March, we found money to not only save our street cleaning budget from cuts but invest more money in it but this was voted against by the majority Labour group. How can residents have pride in our area if even the council doesn’t.
“I’ve had numerous complaints about litter, fly-tipping, graffiti and dog fouling. There’s even been reports in the local press about needles left on streets. The Labour council may not think litter is an issue, but I certainly do!”
Green City Ward Councillor Rob Murphy commented,
“Clearing litter is one of the basic services that people expect from their council. While we need to work on long term solutions like deposits on bottles, it is important any changes are made with the support of the public. Here Sheffield Labour have carried on with their ‘we know best’ attitude that will leave our streets dirtier.”
The decision is due to be brought to the Economic and Environmental Scrutiny Board at 10am on November 2nd.
Sheffield Greens are responding to the news that the Council has taken up a key Green Party policy of reducing speed limits across the city centre to 20mph .
The party are delighted that the Council has chosen to go ahead with a policy campaigned for by Sheffield Greens for a number of years.
Cllr Rob Murphy, speaker for the Green Councillors group and representing City Ward, said:
“We are of course very happy that the Council have chosen to listen to Sheffield Greens and introduce our policy on 20mph speed limits for the city centre, except for on main roads. It is something that we have been campaigning on and working hard to achieve for many years.
“The Greens were the first to push for 20mph zones in Sheffield, and have been doing so since 2008. We have included funding for this measure annually in our fully costed Council budgets since 2014.
“A city centre 20mph speed limit zone will greatly improve the safety of city centre residents, who currently face the worst road traffic accident rates in Sheffield. We of course understand it is necessary for some people to use cars in the city centre but this limit is needed to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
“We are glad that the Council has now decided it agrees with us, but regret that this couldn’t have happened earlier when we were first proposing the policy.”
Sheffield Green Party has responded to the East Midlands rail franchise consultation, setting out its vision for how the railway should run.
Key demands at Sheffield station include:
- Action on air pollution, including stopping idling of train engines wherever possible and, most importantly, a plan to manage the highly polluted taxi rank
- Bus provision right to the station and better public transport information
- Good cycling provision
- No ticket barriers and unimpeded access through the station
- Waste reduction and recycling facilities both on board trains and at the station
- Public accessible wireless
- Public toilets provided free of charge and 24 hours a day
The response also sets out the Green Party’s vision of railways that are publicly owned and controlled. It calls for electrification of railways, investment in the North to match the South, late night trains and planning ahead for reopening stations like Heeley, Millhouses and Totley Brook.
Douglas Johnson, Green Councillor for City Ward, which includes Sheffield Midland station, said,
“In our response, we are clear that modern railways should be inclusive for all, affordable for all, accessible to all, and minimise harm to the environment, for the health and wellbeing of all.”
“We hope our views are taken into account and make the railway a public service right at the heart of society and of Sheffield.
This is not just about faster, more comfortable journeys to London. We want to see investment in rail in the North and station facilities that contribute to the city centre. That’s why we want to see free wireless, public toilets, bus and cycle provision and a serious commitment to tackle air pollution around the station.”
- The DfT ran the consultation to seek views on the re-franchising of the East Midlands rail contract. This includes the Sheffield to London main line, local lines and the management of Sheffield station. At present, the franchise is held by East Midlands Trains. The new contract will run from 2019.
- The consultation documents are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/future-of-east-midlands-rail-franchise/
- Sheffield Green Party’s response is available at http://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2017/10/12/rail-consultation/
Sheffield Green Party has submitted a response to the consultation on the future East Midlands Rail franchise. This includes the Sheffield to London main line, local lines and the management of Sheffield station.
East Midlands Rail Franchise
Sheffield Green Party response to consultation
11 October 2017
First and foremost, we believe our railways should be publicly owned and controlled. They should be inclusive for all, affordable for all, accessible to all, and minimise harm to the environment, for the health and wellbeing of all.
This response focusses on the Sheffield perspective, including management of Sheffield Midland station, which is part of the franchise.
We also strongly believe that Sheffield and the North of England needs and deserves a similar level of investment in rail infrastructure as the South East and London has received.
2. Ticket barriers
We wish to see the DfT’s requirement for ticket barriers to be removed from the franchise.
Sheffield Green Party consistently opposed installing ticket barriers at Sheffield station and was pleased to be part of the successful campaign to show they were a bad idea. The station footbridge is a major public access route between the city centre and the Norfolk Park area, paid for by public and EU money. Ticket barriers also have a disproportionate effect on disabled people.
We are pleased to hear the assurances given at the consultation meetings that no further ticket barriers are proposed.
We strong support the move to rail electrification across as much of the network as possible and wish to see a timetable for action.
We recognise that air pollution is a serious national issues resulting in an estimated 40,000 premature deaths each year and that the UK is already seriously in breach of minimum international legal standards of protection. Air pollution monitoring at Sheffield station has recorded NO2 concentrations at over seven times the maximum legal limit of 40µg/m3.
We consider that a priority for programme of electrification may be to include regional lines serving Sheffield, Doncaster and Leeds where an improvement in local services could have a greater impact than further enhancements to the Sheffield-London route.
4. Air pollution
We would like to see a commitment to the franchisee reducing air pollution from trains (and other machinery or processes at the station) by a firm air quality action plan for all stations it manages. This should drive towards reducing idling of stationary engines as far as possible.
The franchisee should also have a clear system of management of all taxi ranks at its stations using its powers of license or sub-franchise. For instance, at Sheffield station where NO2 levels have been recorded at over seven times the legal maximum, there are problems with continual taxi engine emissions because of the way the taxi system operates. This could be tackled through use of station permit fees. We would like to see the franchisee required to impose effective air pollution reduction conditions. These could include no-idling conditions or giving discounts to low-emission vehicles.
There should be a comprehensive system of regular air pollution monitoring at all stations and this data should be publicised so that improvements and trends over time can be seen. Locations for air quality monitoring should include taxi ranks. This data should be made publicly available online.
5. Waste and recycling
A lot of passenger waste is generated both on trains and at stations. We would like to see big improvements in firstly, minimising packaging and, secondly, effective recycling of paper, glass and plastic bottles.
Reusable (china) crockery and cutlery should be used as far as possible in first class catering.
Sales from refreshment trolleys should aim to reduce packaging and the reuse of plastic bottles. This may include requiring price differentials for passengers who use their own cups.
There should be separate bins on stations and separated collection of waste materials (especially newspapers and magazines) on trains, which are currently all put into general waste.
The franchisee should have regular customer information (such as notices in carriages) that promotes the need to reduce waste and to separate recyclable material.
If possible, the franchisee should be required to report the volumes of recycled waste as a proportion of all waste removed from each station. This data should be made publicly available online.
6. Integration with local travel
Sheffield station is currently not served by any buses. Although a limited number of buses are available at the bus station, which is relatively nearby, the franchise should encourage the development of bus stops and services at the station itself and should require co-operation with the Passenger Transport Executive.
There should be better sharing of real-time information on rail services in Sheffield bus station and at the tram stop serving the station. There should also be a commitment to provide accurate and real-time information on local bus and tram services at the train station.
The franchise arrangements should ensure that the franchisee is required to fully engage and cooperate with the forthcoming tram-train provision in Sheffield and Rotherham.
There should be a guarantee for the continued provision of cycle hubs and for support for independent enterprises such as the successful “Russell’s Bike Shed” at Sheffield station.
The franchisee should provide enough cycle parking to make it clear that cycling to the station is encouraged; that is, meeting not just current demand but anticipated higher demand in future. This means providing cycle stands at the front of the station so that it is only a step or two from parking a bike to buying a ticket. It also means providing cycle stands at the back of the station so that cycling from the Norfolk Park area to catch a train is more convenient.
All stands should be the classic “Sheffield stand” kind as recommended by the Department for Transport, the CTC and the National Cycling Strategy for short-stay cycle parking.
7. New stations
The franchise should incorporate provision for the potential expansion of suburban travel in Sheffield and the reopening of existing stations at Heeley, Millhouses and Totley Brook.
8. Late-night travel
The latest weekday train from Sheffield to London departs at 2049; the latest from London to Sheffield departs at 2225. Saturday and Sunday times are earlier.
At least one late-night train each way would improve the service for off-peak travellers and better reflect the increasingly irregular and 24-hour lifestyles of many people.
9. Wireless and accessible information
Free public wireless should be reinstated at all stations.
Free wireless used to be available at Sheffield station but this is now paid-for subscription only. Reinstating free wireless would help ensure fair access to information as those people most affected are likely to be poorer or less frequent travellers or those who do not want to have to sign up to over-the-phone payments. Free wireless would assist passengers with finding and checking travel information, updates to running times or about their intended destinations, thus contributing to the efficient running of the railway. Free wireless would also make the station environment more convenient, welcoming and modern.
Free wireless should also be provided on trains. It should be seen as an integral part of a modern service rather than something to charge extra for. It would greatly help passengers plan ahead their actions at their next station.
When planning information services, franchisees should be required to disregard the view that members of the travelling public may have good access to 4G networks. Such assumptions may well be true of those who can afford to pay first-class or peak-travel fares but will exclude people with access requirements or with only a basic phone. Many people do not have good access to information and they are the ones for whom public information facilities are most important. Such a requirement would help the DfT meet its legal duties under the public sector equality duty.
The franchisee should provide toilets at each station that are expected to be open and accessible to the general public, ideally 24 hours a day. Toilets should be fully accessible and ideally should meet “changing places” standards. This is a critical service for disabled passengers but also important for all members of the public at a time when fewer public toilets are otherwise provided.
11. Equality considerations
Sheffield Green Party notes with concern that there are no explicit proposals to build equality and environmental considerations into the heart of the franchise. We believe that these issues must be built into the structure of the franchise and not regarded as an additional nicety.
In particular, we are concerned at the possible lack of understanding of equality issues in that we note the consultation asks whether the franchisee should take equality into account. It is also a legal duty to comply, as a minimum with the duties in the Equality Act 2010, whether as a provider of services or under the public sector equality duty.
Devolution was on the agenda at October’s council meeting, after the final collapse of the Sheffield City Region devolution deal. Rob Murphy’s motion called instead for closer links and devolution for Yorkshirebut that a final decision on Yorkshire devolution should only be made after a Yorkshire-wide referendum.
Rob asked the Council, “do we go into future devolution negotiations with a white rose or a white flag?”
The LibDems had the first motion on the agenda and chose the second of these options. Their motion supported attempts to keep the SCR devolution on life support even after it has died a death. Naturally, the Labour group opposed both motions and substituted their own, somewhat rambling, amendment hoping that it would all work out all right somehow. Cllr Jack Scott was clear that he thought Yorkshire devolution was “the wrong thing for Sheffield.” Labour ‘noted’ – without challenge – that the Government minister said he did not want Yorkshire devolution and that the mayoral election was due to go ahead anyway.
As Rob said, only the Greens were the real party of opposition.
As our motion came after the Labour and LibDem motions, there was still no time to debate it, despite the arguments over new arrangements for council meetings.
Labour also managed to avoid any questions from Opposition councillors by filibustering to the 8pm deadline by asking for repeated recorded votes. Each of these took the form of a roll-call since the electronic voting system was not working. Our proposal to replace the system with one fit for broadcasting would have solved that.
One small success was the Council’s agreement to restore the order of motions on the agenda. Labour’s changes at the previous meeting meant that they would always get to choose the first two debates. This has now been replaced with a fairer system similar to the one on place previously. This formula allows a Green motion to be debated first at the December meeting but stops us putting any motions at all in November.
However, I had filed an amendment,
to delete the words “(as revised on 6th September 2017)” which have the effect of restricting opposition parties from submitting motions, in breach of the constitution, which the Monitoring Officer advises has not changed.
As the Labour group refused to agree to this, I had to raise it in the meeting. I spoke briefly to note our discontent at Labour’s “gerrymandering the constitution.” Unfortunately, what I hoped to be a short speech was interrupted not only by the Lord Mayor but also by the Leader of the council and the Labour Whip, who appeared unhappy with what I was saying.
Rules of procedure are important because they lay the ground-rules for debate and decision-making. Unfortunately, the Administration’s official view is that the constitution has not changed; it is just different to what it was before because it was suspended.
Back on the main motions, we discussed cuts to policing and the impact of austerity on life expectancy. As Greens, we are strongly critical of the austerity favoured to greater or lesser degree by Conservatives, Labour and LibDems. Bizarrely, whilst stating that police forces are reaching a breaking point, the Labour group praised extra resources for their top policing priority – tackling off-road biking. I appreciate it is genuinely a serious annoyance in some neighbourhoods and was the personal experience of the proposer but, personally, I would have thought the recent spate of stabbings in the city centre merited some extra police input.
We supported Labour’s motion on the impact of austerity on life expectancy. The LibDems disagreed that austerity was the biggest factor. Labour’s motion – unusually – proposed a course of preventative action on “adverse childhood experiences.” We therefore proposed an amendment to get the council to recognise it had itself closed Surestart centres and community nurseries in the most disadvantaged areas of Sheffield.
Back at the beginning of the meeting, there were tributes to the late Bill Michie, the former councillor (1970-83) and MP for Sheffield Heeley (1983-2001). He was credited with campaigning for policies such as opening Red Tape Studios (kick-starting the Cultural Industries Quarter) and the cheap bus fares policy.
There were petitions asking the council to tackle anti-social behaviour in Firth Park and safety at Victoria Quays after two tragic deaths. A further petition accused Cllr Bryan Lodge of giving “categorically false” information over health and safety breaches after Amey and one of their contractors (Acorn) had been served notices of contravention by the Health and Safety Executive.
There were questions on devolution, fracking and child abuse. Further questions were about trees and the mileage of roads yet to be resurfaced. Part of the delay was explained by Cllr Lodge as being that Amey’s contact with Aggregate Industries “had reached an end” and that a new company was taking over.
The petitioner at September’s meeting about the Rohingya asked why there had been no action by the council to remove the Freedom of the city from Aung San Suu Kyi. This is apparently to come to November’s meeting.
One interesting question came from Russell Johnson. Noting that the council had not yet congratulated Cllr Alison Teal and Cllr Magid Magid for their recent nominations for national awards, he asked whether the council would do so specifically. The Leader of the Council replied that “of course, she would congratulate any councillor … in general … for their contribution in public life.”
So that was a “no” then.
Green Councillor Douglas Johnson said he was “very pleased with the success” of the licensing application by the CADS. The decision of the Licensing Committee today (10/10/17) means the event nights run by CADS, the social enterprise, can now go ahead at their new venue at Eagle Works in Attercliffe.
The Council had objected to the club holding events because it is near the Outokumpu rod mill which handles large volumes of dangerous chemicals. However, Cllr Johnson argued that the stainless steel manufacturing business was operating safely.
His comments to the Licensing Committee are below:
I fully support CADS, a social enterprise, in its ventures. The organisation has brought many regeneration benefits through its business in bringing disused buildings back into productive and enjoyable use. I am pleased they have expanded from their initial base at Smithfield, Shalesmoor to Exchange St shops, Waverley House, the Abbeydale Picture House and the Eagle Works on Stevenson Road, Attercliffe, where they intend to hold temporary events.
Eagle Works is close to Outokumpu’s rod mill, a long-standing business producing high quality stainless steel products. The mill uses large volumes of acid, including hydrofluoric acid, to clean black scale from hot-rolled products. It complies with the appropriate licences from the Environment Agency. Its public information leaflet makes clear that only “non-fuming” grades of acid are on site and, in a spillage, “very little acid vapour would be generated and its effects will be localised.”
Outokumpu’s position is that “Outokumpu Stainless Ltd fully supports the establishment of new commercial ventures within our operating neighbourhood and we are more than happy to support the CADS organisation’s planned events within the Eagle Works.”
In supporting CADS, I want to recognise that Outokumpu confirms it manages its safety risks well: there have been no major incidents since the plant began these operations in the mid-1990’s. Whatever the theoretically possible risks, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest refusing this licence.
Health and safety is an important issue that workers have fought for over many decades. But it is undermined by scare-mongering about unrealistic risks.
I hope the committee will support a progressive and industrious Sheffield business by granting the licence.
Green Party members have unanimously passed a motion proposed by Sheffield Green Party member and former national leader Natalie Bennett calling for a concerted campaign to bring an end to the production and use of all unnecessary single-use plastics.
Green Party members made this motion the top priority for policy debate the conference.
Natalie said: “Plastic waste that has recently risen up the political agenda. We’ve seen legislation for the plastic bag tax and on banning microbeads in cosmetics, some stores agree to stop using plastic cotton bud sticks, some pubs decide to stop using plastic straws, and Michael Gove at Tory Party conference taking a tentative step towards introducing a deposit scheme for plastic bottles, as the Green Party was calling for during the recent general election.
“But these are piecemeal actions, which while important, fail to move sufficiently quickly or comprehensively to address the way in which we’re choking our planet, having produced more than eight billion tons of plastic since the 1950s. We’re making our oceans an ever-thicker plastic soup, contaminating our drinking water and food, and threatening our own and ecosystems’ health with this pernicious material.
“Just 15% of plastic is recycled, but recycling, while useful as an intermediate step, isn’t the answer. We need to stop making and using all unnecessary single-use plastics.
“We’re now producing more than 300 million tonnes a year, roughly equal to the weight of human beings on this Earth. We’ve created a plastic planet and we can’t afford to stuff even more of this dangerous material into it.
“It shouldn’t be up to individuals to go to extraordinary efforts to avoid plastics. We need to remove them from our distribution systems.”