First Person: Run the council for the people

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I recently received responses from Sheffield Council to Freedom of Information requests on the Amey Streets Ahead and Veolia waste contracts.

Unsurprisingly, little information was forthcoming. I had asked about the ‘break’ clauses in the contracts, ie how much it would cost the council to end them early. Bizarrely, while details of compensation payments are withheld from the Streets Ahead contract as ‘commercially confidential’, they are available online for the Veolia contract. Unfortunately, they are incomprehensible to the lay person.

More outrageously, the council is withholding any information on fines levied on Amey and Veolia for breaches of contract. The reason given is that ‘To release this information could impact on Amey and Veolia’s ability to compete for business in a competitive market….’

Why should the people of Sheffield be concerned about the interests of these multinationals. Haven’t we – and other organisations – a right to know if these firms are breaching contracts that we are paying for and how high any fines are?

This Labour council’s shielding of these firms is part of a wider move to hand over power in the city from elected councillors to private contractors and developers.

The council allows Amey to cut down healthy trees to boost their profitability; they propose selling off the Central Library to get another £1m in business rates; they propose to dam the Rivelin and Loxley valleys and ruin Endcliffe and Millhouses Parks as flood defences.

Councillors may argue they have little choice because the Government’s withdrawal of funding forces them to flog off Sheffield to the highest bidder. But they do have a choice. They can either continue to preside over the destruction of this city – or they can do what Labour councillors in places like Liverpool and Clay Cross have done in the past and stand up for the people against the Government.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will continue to campaign for Sheffield and other councils to use the reserves they have left (£111m in Sheffield) to stop the cuts and mount a campaign to force this Government to restore the funding. We could have a council run for the benefit of the people not for the profits of multinationals.