MORE than 7,000 people have signed a petition urging the Government to give Sheffield a ‘fair deal’ on grants.
It was handed into the town hall on Tuesday, and will trigger a debate by the full council next Wednesday because it has more than 5,000 names.
The ‘Fair Deal for Sheffield’ campaign is backed by Labour politicians, faith leaders, including the Anglican and Catholic bishops, representatives of the voluntary and community sectors, trade unions, student groups and the new police commissioner.
It aims to make the Government think again in the wake of public spending cuts that, it is claimed, are taking a heavy toll on the city, especially on poorer residents.
Campaigners seek to highlight the “unfair distribution” of Government’s cuts on urban areas such as Sheffield, compared to wealthier areas which campaigners say are receiving much lower reductions in funding.
Organisers say it is a non-party initiative - but opposition Liberal Democrats claim it is being driven by the Labour Party, disputing statistical comparisons with more prosperous places.
Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield said: “Hopefully with the council’s support we will be able to put together a much bigger petition to take to Downing Street.”
The petition calls for equal budget cuts at councils across the UK.
Labour politicians say, for example, that Sheffield residents are losing £139 per person in Government grants compared to £12 in Richmond-upon-Thames.
But opposition Liberal Democrats say southern councils have much smaller budgets than Sheffield and fewer services.
Sheffield’s budget is three-and-a-half times bigger than Richmond’s and, in 2013/14, Sheffield will have £160 more to spend per household than Richmond.
The Lib Dems have also produced figures to show, for instance, that South Yorkshire Police had £60 extra per head in funding compared to Surrey Police in 2011-12.
The opposition group accuse Labour of using the campaign to deflect responsibility for decisions about where unpopular cuts are made.
“People want Labour politicians to stop blaming others and take some responsibility,” said local Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed.
The petition comes as the council prepares to cuts £50m from its budget over the next 12 months, which has led to controversial proposals such as the closure of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre and less money for children’s early years services.
It was handed in by a delegation including MP Paul Blomfield, Father Chris Posluszny, dean of St Marie’s Cathedral, the Rev Julian Sullivan, vicar of St Mary’s Church in Bramall Lane, Mark Russell, chief executive of the Church Army, Mohammad Aslam, chairman of the Medina Mosque and Helen Francis, president of Sheffield Hallam University Students Union.