Major operation for Lib Dem conference

Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield City Hall

Talks held as protests grow against Coalition policies

SHEFFIELD is gearing up for a major operation to handle the staging of the spring conference of the Liberal Democrats in the city.

Talks between senior police and council representatives are being held against a background of widespread protests against the Coalition Government over the raising of student tuition fees and public spending cuts.

With little sign of anger abating, demonstrators will have the focalpoint of a high profile political event in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s ‘home city’.

Around 1,500 delegates are due to attend the conference at the City Hall from March 11-13 - the first time Sheffield has hosted a conference by a national political party.

The location was chosen at the start of the year when it was hailed as a coup for the city in terms of raising its profile and generating an estimated £1m for the local economy. Delegates will be based at the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel next to the Peace Gardens.

The Lib Dems’ partnership in the Coalition Government has been at the root of many demonstrations, especially among students, who have criticised Mr Clegg for his turnaround on student fees. In Sheffield, protests have been held outside the town hall and his Hallam constituency offices in Nether Green.

An extra local dimension to opposition to Mr Clegg comes with his defending of the withdrawal of a proposed £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, with the Coalition Government under fire this week from MPs for taking “an easy cost saving”.

The conference will be held around the time the city’s Lib Dem council confirms next year’s budget - one that will encompass cuts of 8.35% in line with this week’s Government grants announcement.

Police and the council are now working on a strategy designed to ensure the conference is staged in a safe environment.

Supt Martin Scothern said: “South Yorkshire Police is working with Sheffield City Council and event organisers to plan a suitable policing operation around the Liberal Democrat spring conference.