The long-awaited legal verdict on the trees injunction is overdue as I write this on April 17th. What will the court say about the actions of Sheffield Council in consulting with local people?
The council sought a council group consensus before starting down the route that led to the Streets Ahead contract. The Green group refused to be part of it – seeking to keep the work required in-house via Street Force. The Lib Dems drove the contract process and Labour continued it through to the contract signing with Amey after they took back power. Both were cheerleaders throughout. Work started immediately after the contract was signed with no tree strategy and no biodiversity plan in place.
Now the downsides are becoming clearer. Control has been handed over to a private company driven by maximising profit for shareholders. Contract repayments increase year on year over 25 years – a ticking financial time bomb. Veolia and Amey are not taking their share of required council cuts so adult social care and other vital services have to take a much bigger hit. And there were £9.2 million of extra cuts in the council budget due to major contracts, including £6.48 million due to Streets Ahead.
Labour and the Lib Dems have argued for years about who should get the credit for Streets Ahead. But recent experience shows that outsourced council services bound up in commercial confidentiality are incapable of adapting and responding to the legitimate concerns of local people. We need a council that listens and responds to the community it has been elected to represent. A new approach is needed urgently which puts people before profit.
Green Party candidate, Nether Edge and Sharrow ward.