Letters: Is it a case of blaming the messenger?
Your columnist Ellen Beardmore challenged readers to write to your letters page regarding her article last week.
I am not sure if the challenge was regarding street cleaning, the subject of her article, or her ignorance of local government finance and her lack of awareness of what has been happening in Sheffield for seven years. Ellen’s column is more is a case of blaming the messenger.
Whether it be street cleaning, parks or social care the effects of seven years of “austerity” are clearly being seen across the city and Ellen’s comment “ What is the point of paying council tax if we can’t even have clean streets?” is clearly wrong.
It should be “What is the point of paying income tax to the Government if we can’t keep the streets clean” as it is that portion of local government finance, passed from central government, that has been disappearing and will have been fully cut by 2020.
The Revenue Support Grant is money raised by Government through taxation and passed on to local government. Since 2010 £400 million will have been removed from Sheffield City Council’s Revenue Support Grant, a cumulative total of more than £1.5 billion removed from the Sheffield economy.
The Conservative Government will reduce it again this year by around £50 million alongside the £350m removed by the previous Conservative Government and its Liberal Democrat allies.
By 2020 the Revenue Support Grant or 50 per cent of the Sheffield City Council budget will have gone and the effect has been devastating and now beyond hiding.
Along with the 2,000 jobs that have gone from the council, cuts have been made to all the important services a civilised city should have –education, housing, services for the old and vulnerable as well as libraries , culture and sport.
The level of funding in 2020 will be needed merely to maintain the core services of social care and children’s services and very little else.
Alongside the local government cuts, Sheffield sees its hospitals in deficit and threats of closure to the Hallamshire minor injuries unit and other facilities under the Government’s so-called Sustainability and Transformation Plans.
Cuts in direct funding to schools will be coming to a school near you this year as will the dreaded Universal Credit that will plunge poor families into even deeper poverty. A Victorian bedfellow for the iniquitous “bedroom tax” and changes to levying council tax on the poorest.
Ellen’s ironic comment on “ever increasing council tax” is far from the truth as for a number of years it was politically fashionable to levy 0 per cent increases to council tax and all this did was make the funding gap wider and services poorer. The unfair nature of the council tax itself has seen the heaviest burdenof taxation falling on the poorest and it is surely a system in need of reform.
Far from challenging the readers I feel the Telegraph, and the council itself, need to be the ones challenged.
They are the ones far better placed to describe the damage being done to the city and far better to organise a campaign to oppose the destructive cuts levied on the services we need and deserve.
The great economist John Galbraith once described the United States as “ private affluence alongside public squalor” and this is now beginning to resemble Sheffield and other major cities of the North.
On the wider political front the policy of “austerity” is now being seen as a great economic mistake, as great as it was in the 1930s and in the 1980s and we should be fighting for a new economic strategy that can create and share its wealth more equally and provide a civilised society for all.
Serious consequences for Mayfield Valley
If the council disregard their own and national planning policy and approve the demolition of Bennett Cottage, it will have serious consequences not only for the Mayfield Valley but to all the beautiful countryside to the west of the city.
There is far more at stake than the loss of a building. The Mayfield Valley is one of the Sheffield’s designated Areas of Special Character. Buildings that, like Bennett Cottage, contribute to its character are protected, and new buildings must respect the appearance for which it is valued.
The valley is part of a much larger Area of High Landscape Value covering the whole western fringe from Stocksbridge to Bradway. Planning policy states that protecting such areas an overriding consideration.
If this vanity project proceeds, the beautiful and historic nature of this entire area will be in jeopardy, as wealthy developers seek to destroy any building they please, knowing that the council has given up any right to conserve one of the most treasured aspects of our city.
J Robin Hughes
Scheme represents further obstruction
I was absolutely fascinated to read the joyful hyped-up article about the cycle route scheme.
Council representatives ‘consulted’ local residents, most of whom – including local cyclists and pedestrians like myself – objected strenuously to the proposal, which has been passed without addressing a single objection.
You have only to look at a map to see cyclists and walkers (other than local residents) would have to leave direct routes and go out of their way in order to use the route.
If cycling is so important, what about the cycle paths on Ecclesall Road (such as it is, and the road markings have disappeared approaching the Hanover Way roundabout) and Clarkehouse Road, the latter being obstructed during the day by parked cars?
The scheme represents further obstruction to local residents’ access, already limited, while it offers little or no positive improvement to the paths already existant.
Your reporter has taken the council’s line in entirety, without making any attempt to get an opinion from the affected local residents, or the potential users of this waste of money and effort.