Councillor Douglas JohnsonSheffield City Council today (2 March 2022) voted against setting a lawful budget for the next 12 months. Green councillors voted against the budget after Labour councillors had voted to reject the Green councillors’ amendment.

By contrast, Green councillors had voted for the Labour amendment in order to secure a substantial investment in community renewable energy generation, something the Green Party has long campaigned for.

What happened next? Cllr Douglas Johnson explains,

“After Labour failed to get its budget passed, the LibDems offered to change their vote if Labour would drop its amendment. However, Greens fought to keep the amendment with its significant investment in community renewable energy and we then formally abstained on the budget so that this could be secured.

Councillor Douglas Johnson said,

“The Green Group looked at all the amendments. Though there were things in the Labour amendment that we had reservations about, we thought it was important to recognise the good things in Labour’s amendment and not make the mistake of just voting along party lines. That sort of tribal politics should be the politics of the past and is no good for the people of Sheffield.”

The Labour Group and the Lib Dems all voted against the Green Party Amendment, however.

Councillor Johnson said

“I was disappointed that Labour were unable to see beyond party politics on something as important as the City Council’s budget. I firmly believe that the spirit of our Cooperative Administration should be about being open to ideas from outside our own political groups”.

One of the sticking points for Labour in the Green Amendment was support for establishing an Employers Workplace Parking Levy to help pay for improvements. In Nottingham, the levy on large employers raises more than £9 million each year, with the revenue used to fund tram infrastructure, a smart card scheme, electric buses, cycling facilities and grants to businesses. Leicester City Council are also looking at introducing a levy based on Nottingham’s success.

Councillor Johnson said

“We believe that establishing a workplace parking levy to support public transport and active travel is progressive and vital if we are going to have the investment to deliver the public transport system we need to address the climate emergency. Small employers with fewer than 10 parking spaces pay nothing at all. It is the larger employers offering more than 10 parking spaces who pay a fee of £1.17 per day per parking space. There are exemptions for local emergency services, NHS frontline staff and blue badge holders. What is really important to understand is that funding improvements to public transport and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians in this way means we have more flexibility in council budgets to pay for things like Adult Social Care where the demand is huge and finance is limited.”

“It is astonishing that councillors would rather cut social care than put up parking charges.”

“I am aware that for the Labour Party this is a real problem and I have to confess I’m perplexed by that. I would love to say this is a scheme dreamed up by the Green Party but actually both Nottingham and Leicester Councils are led by Labour Administrations. It is an example of best practice that we should follow. I don’t care where good ideas come from, I think we should back them. That is what all forward-thinking, responsible councils should be doing.”