Sheffield Local Elections, trees, lies and mis-information

It is very concerning that this year’s local elections have been dominated by lies and misinformation from the two main parties. Behaviour like this can only undermine the public trust in our politicians and is very dangerous for democracy.

Following the Lowcock Report, where the Labour Council were found to have misled the courts, and their behaviour “amounted to a serious and sustained failure of strategic leadership”, one would expect the Labour Party to be cautious to avoid any accusations of dishonesty. However, they are blatantly spreading mistruths on social media, in the press and presumably on the doorstep when talking to voters.

The Green Party has called for an Emergency General Meeting to discuss the findings of the Lowcock Report. An independent enquiry which the Greens secured. The Lord Mayor is calling this on the 10th of May when these matters will be discussed. It is disappointing that the meeting was not before the election, and of course, if Cllr Fox had any integrity he would resign now. Cllr Lodge however has resigned as Co-Chair of Finance and has said he will not contest his Birley Ward seat when it becomes vacant again in May 2024. The Labour Councillors should be persuading Cllr Fox to go. If the result of the local election leaves the Council in No Overall Control, which is the best we can expect, then I gather the Green Party Councillors will, as they did last year, vote against Cllr Fox leading the Council.  It was the Lib Dems abstaining that allowed him to be leader this year. If Labour do well in the local election and gains three seats or more, they will again have overall control of the Council and will be able to select whoever they want as leader.

Councillor Peter Price meanwhile (Star 24th April) continues to write to the Star as if the Lowcock Report and the Tree Dispute never happened. 

Where is his remorse for the healthy mature trees that were needlessly destroyed? 

Where is his remorse for the £400,000 of Council Tax payer’s money wasted on legal expenses taking tree protesters to court? 

Where is his remorse for the years of time campaigners lost so they could protect their environment from the Amey chainsaws? Imagine the good that could have been done if that effort could have been put into other projects. 

Where is his remorse for the Council misleading the Courts and threatening people with imprisonment whose only crime was to try and protect the trees? 

Where is his remorse for the physical abuse tree protectors faced from the so-called security guards at felling sites? 

For the Sheffield electorate to have any faith in the Labour Party they really need to get rid of the old guard that was in charge throughout the tree dispute.

Then there was the controversy about the No 10 bus. This meme was widely distributed on social media.

This refers to the budget debate which is reported here. Each main party proposed a budget amendment. Unlike some Councils, Sheffield Councillors can only vote for the complete amendment. They are not allowed to take it in parts. So Greens voted for their own budget, which included for instance a Workplace Parking Levy which could have raised much-needed funds for the Council to improve public transport and active travel. In doing so they had to vote against the Labour budget, even though some aspects of it were good. The Greens have long campaigned for the return of the No. 10 bus, as this open letter from September 2022 shows.

Reporting the issue like this, as if Greens do not want to prioritise public transport, is indefensible.

More recently we have had the controversy about the 52A bus that used to connect Hillsborough Interchange with Wadsley, Loxley and Wisewood, Cutting this service has caused massive problems for local residents, but Cllr George Lindars-Hammond used the problem to allege that other parties “are blocking better bus services for Wisewood and Wadsley” (Star Letters April 28). Again this is complete nonsense.

 Bus services are controlled by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Authority not Sheffield City Council.

Following the service cuts last October, Hillsborough Green councillors suggested a shuttle bus solution directly to the elected Labour Mayor Oliver Coppard. Only the mayor can create and fund new bus services.

I was hoping my recent article featuring misleading Lib Dem bar charts would make them rethink their charts for the rest of the campaign. Unfortunately, we continue to get appalling graphs that completely mislead the public. Here is one from the leaflet to voters in Fulwood.

You might think I would be worried about their lack of an axis, which is bad enough. But they have somehow forgotten that the Greens gained 1110 votes in Fulwood, coming a good third, well ahead of the Conservatives. Misinformation like this can affect how people vote. It really should be illegal to deliberately misinform the public like this.

What can be done about it? Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party, is calling for a code of conduct where politicians pledge factual accuracy in electoral advertising. That would be a very good start. Check out Reform Political Advertising here.

Carla Denyer and Graham Wroe outside Sheffield Town Hall

Until we get something like this voters should check the information in election leaflets and social media very carefully to ensure that that they are not being misled.

If you are undecided how to vote, have a look at the websites for the main parties.

Sheffield Labour Councillors

Sheffield Liberal Democrats

Sheffield Green Party

Sheffield Conservatives

TUSC do not appear to have a local site.

and to find information about your candidates see Who is my local councillor?

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