Sheffield City Council has been failing to uphold the principle of open government since lockdown was introduced in March. Whilst local authorities such as Birmingham have “successfully” or “partially successfully” responded to 37.5% of freedom of information requests since late March, and [Green led] Lewes District Council responding positively to 75%, Sheffield City Council bottoms out with barely more than 12%.
The Coronavirus pandemic has posed enormous challenges to public bodies up and down the country. Local authorities are receiving lacklustre support from central Government despite facing unprecedented challenges. In light of this it is understandable that during the peak of the crisis normal rules and procedures did not apply in the way they ordinarily would.
Even if we assume that Sheffield City Council (SCC) is acting in good faith and that there are legitimate reasons for these failings, it can’t be denied that there is also a pattern of behaviour prior to the pandemic which makes us question that good faith. Once hard won civil rights have been put on hold, those in power will be reluctant to give them back, and those whose authoritarian tendencies are already well documented will be the most reluctant of all. Following the Street Tree scandal, the rejection of a committee governance model and criticism from the information commissioner’s office, no council in Britain has quite such an autocratic reputation as the Labour controlled SCC.
As a Sheffield Green Party councillor candidate I will do my best to hold SCC accountable and ensure it does not use the pandemic to hide its faults. The council must deliver for the people of Sheffield through openness and transparency. That is why Sheffield Green Party is supporting the ‘It’s Our City’ campaign who have secured a referendum to run alongside Sheffield’s May 2021 local elections.
Green Party Candidate, Broomhill and Sharrowvale ward