Green Councillors on Sheffield City Council have welcomed the detailed and thorough written apology (1) for the actions the Council took during the street trees dispute.
The apology is in response to the findings of the report by Sir Mark Lowcock into the street tree dispute. The formal Inquiry was commissioned as a result of the Cooperative Administration agreement between the Green Party and Labour in 2021 (1). Labour lost their majority in the 2021 Local Elections.
Councillor Douglas Johnson, Leader of the Green Group of councillors on Sheffield City Council said,
“This apology has been a long time coming but it is welcome nevertheless. If Labour hadn’t lost its majority in 2021 and the Greens hadn’t secured an agreement from Labour for an Independent Street Trees Inquiry it is highly unlikely this acknowledgement of the Council’s serious failings over many, many years would ever have seen the light of day. (2)
“The roots of the street tree dispute come from the Council establishing the Streets Ahead contract with Amey in 2012. This £2.2 billion contract saw the felling of 5474 trees and was criticised for its lack of accountability. This contract was only opposed by the 2 Green Councillors on the Council at the time, Cllrs Jillian Creasy and Bernard Little, who is now a Green Councillor in the Walkley ward.”
“For the Council to truly learn the lessons from the Street Tree dispute it needs to ensure the voice of the public is heard more in the new Committee System. The move to a Committee System, which was opposed by Labour and supported by the Green Party, was the result of a grassroots campaign by local people, largely arising from the Street Trees campaign. In 2021, 65% of people voted for the move to a Committee System in a referendum. This referendum was forced on the Council, by a community-led petition
The “It’s Our City” campaign was founded to address the lack of accountability and secrecy inherent in the Cabinet System and the bunker mentality that it fostered. This meant a few Labour Councillors were making decisions on the removal of thousands of street trees. This was widely condemned by thousands of Sheffielders. The Committee System, which involves all Councillors in decision making, was openly opposed by Labour and is now being given as one of the reasons that nothing like the street trees scandal could ever happen again.
“What really needs to change, for good, is the culture of the Council. Whether we have a committee system or a cabinet system we still need Councillors to be open and honest in the statements they make and in the decisions they take. This apology is an important start in that process and Green Councillors will continue to act as the conscience of the Council and make sure there is no return to the politics of the past.”
- An open apology to all residents of Sheffield, and beyond, for Sheffield City
Council’s actions during the street tree dispute. (starts Page 42)
- The Cooperative Administration Agreement between the Green Party and Labour in 2021.