Sheffield Green Party members Martin Phipps and Brian Holmshaw by the ring road
Sheffield Green Party members Martin Phipps and Brian Holmshaw by the ring road

Sheffield Council plan to increase the number of lanes on the Inner Ring Road between Corporation Street & Savile Street to allow more cars. Their Transport team were at a recent Kelham Island Community Alliance (KICA) meeting to answer questions. Residents told them that this would worsen air pollution which already breaches maximum legal limits in the area. The plans bring no real benefit to residents of the area who will have to put up with more traffic.

Many studies have shown that widening roads just increases traffic so they are still congested. At the same time, tram services are to be run less frequently from January because of the increase in cars on the road.

Sheffield Green Party is calling for a hold on the project and review of these proposals to find long term solutions that will actually reduce congestion and not make air pollution worse in and around the city centre.

People urgently need better public transport and safer cycling and walking options so they can choose to leave their cars at home. This would reduce congestion for all road users while improving dangerous air pollution and road safety.

Martin Phipps,
Sheffield Green Party

Notes

  1. Inner Road Proposals: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/ringroad
  2. Air quality data: https://sheffieldeastend.wordpress.com/air-quality-monitoring-data/kelham-island-air-quality-data/
  3. Studies showing that widening roads are not effective: http://www.citymetric.com/transport/does-building-more-roads-create-more-traffic-934
Alison Teal
Cllr Alison Teal

Cllr Alison Teal has commented today on behalf of the Sheffield Greens, responding to concerning and troubling developments regarding the use of violence and defamation against tree campaigners. [1]

Alison Teal, representing Nether Edge and Sharrow, said “Sheffield Greens are deeply concerned by reports of violence against peaceful protestors by Amey staff at felling locations.

“We also regret the recent attempts by both Amey and Sheffield’s Labour Administration to defame and deride tree campaigners in the local press with unsubstantiated and untruthful claims.

“All this comes at a time when tree campaigner representatives from STAG recently renewed their efforts to engage the Council in talks a couple of weeks ago, with a view to mediation of this increasingly bitter dispute. Sheffield Green Party has consistently called for mediation.

“If the Administration is serious about finding a resolution to this crisis created by their unpopular and unnecessary tree felling programme, we suggest that they urgently look into reports of violence against city residents by their contractors, and stop smearing the tree campaign in local media.”

[1] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/violence-used-on-peaceful-protestors-in-sheffield_us_5a1cf758e4b07bcab2c69996

Rob Murphy & Douglas Johnson in Sheffield Council chamber
Rob Murphy & Douglas Johnson in Sheffield Council chamber

November’s council meeting was a quiet one for Alison Teal, who sat through the whole meeting without making a speech.  Maybe it was just good to know she wasn’t in prison and didn’t get thrown out of the meeting. A number of questions from the public asked the council to explain various decisions around the council’s application to the High Court to have her imprisoned and the court’s rejection of it.  In response, Cllr Bryan Lodge confirmed that the council “accepts the words of Mr Justice Males” but that he was “pleased Cllr Teal has been to court.” There was however, absolutely no recognition of just how bad it looks in 21st Century Britain to try to jail your political opponents.

Earlier in the meeting, the Council had agreed unanimously to remove the Freedom of the City from Aung San Suu Kyi, which had been granted on International Women’s Day in 2006 for “commitment to secure democracy and human rights by non-violent means.”

Labour’ decision to suspend the constitution meant we had not been permitted to put even one motion forward this month.  Rob Murphy proposed an emergency motion to call for an independent inquiry into the failed case against Alison Teal but this was request was rejected by the Lord Mayor, to cries of “shame” from the public gallery.

Instead the meeting debated issues of national policy rather than anything much to do with Sheffield. We had issues about charges for service in the NHS, universal credit and a round-up of national housing policy issues. None of this had any particular relevance to Sheffield any more than for any other town or city.

We moved a formal amendment to say there should be “no place for private profit in NHS hospital services.”  Both Labour and LibDems revealed their true colours by opposing this. We have to remember that both those parties have been complicit in bringing the market into the health service during their terms in government.

We commented on the universal credit motion by saying it was not enough for Labour just to “note” these issues. We said the Administration should draw up an action plan to protect Sheffield’s citizens from the full roll-out of Universal Credit.  That too was rejected by Labour.  Heaven forbid they should actually use the Council’s resources to limit the hardships facing our residents!

On the LibDems’ transport motion, Rob Murphy commented that when money is so tight, road safety has to be a priority.  The recent 20mph zone in the city centre is where the most road accidents are. However, he noted that, with the Amey contract, the cost of doing road improvements has gone through the roof.

We had at least had some success with Members’ Questions. These are written questions submitted by councillors a week before the meeting and with written answers given at the meeting. Councillors can then ask supplementary questions. It’s not quite Prime Minister’s Questions but it is a very important way for the Opposition to call the Labour Administration to account.  As part of suspending the constitution, Labour had moved these to the end of the meeting so that there was no time to ask extra questions. For this meeting, however, they were brought to follow on from public questions.

We asked questions about fire safety in tower blocks (still waiting for an answer), Sunny Bank meeting rooms, the deal for the Central Library, volunteer libraries, pension fund investments, output under the Streets Ahead contract – and leafblowers. Amey have 38 apparently.

We also asked “urgent questions” asking for a comment from the Leader of the Council on the court’s decision to refuse the application to commit Cllr Alison Teal to prison. We were refused permission to ask the questions on the grounds it was not ‘urgent.’ The meeting then ended early for once.

Douglas Johnson
Cllr Douglas Johnson

Green councillor, Douglas Johnson, has taken the lead on scrutinising a decision about the future of Sheffield’s health services.

Councillors have “called in” the decision to progress the “Accountable Care Partnership,” saying the matter should be reviewed by the Health & Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee.

The call-in has been supported by Green, LibDem and Labour councillors

Cllr Douglas Johnson said,

“The Accountable Care Partnership will affect many health services in Sheffield from now on but only meets in private.  There needs to be proper scrutiny of its work by a range of elected councillors.

“I wanted to give the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee a chance to ask for a formal role in looking at decisions made in the name of the ‘Accountable Care Partnership.’  It is the only cross-party committee that could scrutinise decisions.  Unfortunately, the Cabinet member’s decision only allows the single-party Health and Well-being Board to have formal oversight of the decisions.”

“I am very pleased this call-in has cross-party support. The role of scrutiny committees of elected councillors, who meet in public, is very important on a highly contentious issue like this.”

“Scrutiny is essential where, so often, the word “transformation” means cuts to public services.

Notes

  1. The Individual Cabinet Member decision is at http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?Id=1908
  2. Cllr Douglas Johnson is the lead signatory to the call-in, which is supported by other councillors from the Green, LibDem and Labour groups
  3. The reason given for the call-in is “because formal scrutiny arrangements for this highly contentious issue have been agreed only for the Health and Wellbeing Board but not for the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, which is the only cross-party scrutiny available to the local authority.
  4. A date for the scrutiny committee has yet to be set.
  5. The decision being called in refers to the “Sheffield Place-Based Plan.” A draft of this plan was considered but not approved by the Scrutiny Committee in 2017.
  6. The Sheffield Accountable Care Partnership is made up of senior executives of the hospitals, health trusts and clinical commissioning group (CCG) as well as Sheffield City Council.

It’s good to question the actions of Sheffield Council as Mike Lawton does in this letters page on city centre 20mph zone proposals (Star 8 November). Too much is being pushed through by the Labour cabinet ignoring the views of the public and opposition councillors.

Mike outlines the case against, as he sees it. I would point readers to www.20splenty.org where you can see the case for 20mph zones. The campaign’s main focus has always been road safety. More than half of road deaths and serious injuries occur on roads with 30mph limits. Lowering urban and residential speed limits to 20 mph cuts child pedestrian accidents by up to 70%.

The city centre scheme covers a clearly defined area within the ring road where drivers will be aware of the 20 mph speed limit and can adapt to it. Sheffield Green Party supports the proposal for city centre 20mph speed limits other than on main roads.

Cllr Douglas Johnson
Sheffield Green Party

Letter to the Sheffield Star in response to http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/your-say/20-s-dirty-stay-with-30-1-8845885

If the Star round table discussion (Star November 6) on air pollution is to lead to improvements it will require joined up thinking by the council. Jack Scott, Cabinet member for Transport and Sustainability, highlighted the need to change people’s ‘hearts and minds’. But we continue to see actions that do the opposite.

I recently went to the Council’s Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny committee.  They were examining a report proposing changes to Environmental Maintenance Services that will reduce clearance of fly-tipping and standards of cleaning maintenance still further. Within those proposals is the removal of shrub beds along many city highways to make grass easier to cut. Numerous studies show that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulates are reduced significantly by well-placed shrubs and trees to remove them from the air. We need to be increasing tree and shrub ground cover in Sheffield, not reducing it.

Green councillor Rob Murphy asked for the report to be referred back to be reconsidered in consultation with the Director of Public Health so the impact of removal could be assessed. Looking round the table he was the only councillor who voted for this to happen. The report was accepted and the changes will now go ahead.

Without thinking through and understanding how decisions made in one part of the authority affect other parts, air pollution will get even worse. And the 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield linked to air pollution will keep increasing.

Brian Holmshaw
Sheffield Green Party

Sheffield residents, please take note. The Labour Council asked a High Court judge to imprison an opposition Green councillor on the strength of wishful evidence which the judge described as “mistaken”. They are your elected representatives, supposed to be making decisions in the best interests of the community. You may want to question why they used public money to try to rid themselves of an opposition councillor.

The court also heard how the Council had changed the words of the formal injunction from what the judge actually ordered, to what one officer described as ‘the spirit of the judgment.’ This attempt to intimidate and mislead the public is dishonest and quite frankly disgraceful.

This case comes after Labour Councillors voted me out of a full Council meeting for daring to suggest that Cllr Bryan Lodge had ‘misled’ the public. All 28 opposition councillors walked out in protest.

Internal complaints are still being pursued against me by the council’s Legal Director who accuses me of “bringing the Council into disrepute” and breaching the councillors’ Code of Conduct. I was arrested in February under anti-trade union legislation (the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act) which the Crown Prosecution Service dropped due to lack of evidence.

In my opinion, the Labour Executive are doing a remarkable and unfortunate job of bringing Sheffield Council into disrepute locally, nationally and internationally.

The Council prefer to intimidate and bully opposition councillors and residents opposed to their horrendously short-sighted tree felling programme, rather than listen to residents and make informed decisions to retain thousands of healthy street trees.

I have no choice but to call publicly for the Council to be held accountable for their expensive, politically motivated, and punitive legal action against me and other Sheffield residents opposed to their tree felling programme.

Cllr Alison Teal
Green Party

Letter to Sheffield Star.

Readers may not be aware that recent council reassurances on the £1 billion China deal were not just prompted by questions raised by opposition councillors. The council were clearly responding to information and concerns outlined by investigative journalists in an Asia Times article published on October 14th. Questions were raised about some of Mr Wang’s business deals and those of other businesses he has links to. You can read this article at www.atimes.com/article/another-uk-china-deal-ice-amid-secrecy-confusion/

More questions about the 60-year deal with Sichuan Guodong Construction Group do need answering. Originally the council claimed the deal was signed with a company listed on the Shanghai stock market with the protections that offers. Now we are told the deal is with a very similar private company owned by Wang Chunming. It’s not the same company but it has the same name.

It’s now clear that Amey ran rings round the council in negotiating Streets Ahead, signed in 2012. Today, a cash-strapped council is still desperate to attract investment from outside the city. You have to question whether councils have the capability to negotiate deals the way a commercial company can. Budgets have shrunk and many experienced staff have been shed. Councils can become blind to the risks, and it’s become clear there are significant risks associated with this deal.

We have 20 long years of the 25 year Amey contract to endure. We also have the 35 year waste contract with Veolia until 2036. The council recently indicated they want to get out of that contract because it is not flexible enough to give them the savings they now want to make.

Opposition councillors need to keep asking questions as the council’s “what’s not to like?” response offers no reassurance. Why would any organisation knowingly commit to a 60 year contract given the huge changes in society, environment and technology that will take place in that time?

Cllr Douglas Johnson
Sheffield Green Party

This is a letter to the Sheffield Star response to: http://www.thestar.co.uk/business/good-progress-in-sheffield-s-1bn-china-property-deal-1-8810413