MP Louise Haigh has suggested that the tree felling should stop and that the protestors and the Council should go to mediation (reported in the Sheffield Telegraph 15th March). I think this raises some interesting questions about democracy.
On one side there is the democratically elected Council and on the other side there is an interest group which could be seen as ‘democratic’ in the sense that it has a large number of supporters.
How would the mediator be chosen? Would they need to consider things such as the cost of preserving more trees and council services which might have to be cut?
Would they also take account of the democratic imbalance between the two sides? Over 100,000 people voted for the ruling party in the last Council election.
Perhaps the mediator would just consider the rights and wrongs of the matter. In that case it would have nothing to do with democracy.
We want community bids to be successful
Sheffield Green Party feels that the decision to sell grade II* listed Mount Pleasant
house on Sharrow Lane to a commercial care home provider in preference to a community trust is a disappointing choice for our city’s publicly owned assets.
The community social enterprise bid proposed by Heart of Sharrow was the result of four years work and investment by many professionals. The scheme had been viewed by a number of current cabinet members who offered praise and encouragement to the creators of the project, Penny Raven and Jonny Douglas.
However, despite being assured that the Cabinet would take the decision on the preferred bidder, the choice was made by only one member, Deputy Leader, Olivia Blake.
Local Nether Edge & Sharrow ward councillors requested a call-in so that the decision could be scrutinised by a cross-party committee. The public and Heart of Sharrow were given the chance to ask questions at the meeting on Wednesday 14 March. However, much of the information they requested was considered by officers and Cllr Blake to be commercially sensitive.
Worryingly, the public were excluded from hearing the officers’ report which provided significant detailed information around planning and finance which could not be shared with the Heart of Sharrow or the public.
It is unjust to have encouraged the Heart of Sharrow community bid only to then turn around and reject it without providing open, transparent and detailed reasons for why. The Heart of Sharrow group deserve a right of reply. They need to have access to the specific reasons of why their submission was unsuccessful. Only this way can they scrutinise for themselves the accuracy of the officer’s assessment and Cllr Blake’s decision.
We challenge the process used to make the decision and ask that a more democratic and accountable system is put in place. We need to offer stronger support to community developers who do not have the same resources as commercial concerns. Surely as a Council we want community bids like Heart of Sharrow to be successful?
Cllr Alison Teal
Sheffield Green Party
Don’t be frightened - this is just a fairy story
Once upon a time somewhere over the rainbow, there was a city that was so green that it was known as the Emerald city, with lovely yellow-brick roads.
Gradually, though, it became known as ‘pot-hole’ city as the Council had more pressing things on which to spend its gold – and they ignored the beautiful growing green emerald crystals too, meaning that they needed a lot of re-cutting and polishing, over many years to bring back and then retain their shine.
They were wondering what they could possibly do, when the wicked Predatory Fairy Imp (PFI) of the east offered to repair their roads and emeralds in return for their gold. But they didn’t have enough gold. So the wicked PFI said well, if you reduce the number of emeralds we have to keep polishing – and give us lots of gold if you ever change your mind - we can come to some agreement. Reduce by how many, said the Council? – about half, said the PFI. But we’d never get away with it, said the Council.
Don’t worry – they’re only little people. That old survey that was done that saying many crystals were ‘mature’; just say they’ve had it – they won’t know that means they are not likely to grow much more, and could shine for over another 100 years and continue to make their children and grandchildren happy. And say they’re discriminatory – they won’t know that one of the ITP used a wheelchair and they will have taken this into account when ‘advising’ many of the emeralds might actually be saveable. And they won’t question it being said we need to continue removing 200 a year due to natural wastage when its those we’re supposed to have been getting rid of in the first five years. If they do protest, we can send the flying squads to ward them off!
But a hardy troup of emerald lovers danced off to the good Wizard of the ICO – who threw water over the Council and made them spill the beans.
What shall we do now said the Council – perhaps we can tell them the words don’t mean what they say – and it’s not half the emeralds that will go – just less than a third; they won’t know that the agreement also says they have to keep cutting and polishing all those that remain, so we might still have to pay for them. Then we’ll concoct a nasty emerald disease that means they will all have to go – we can blame the Russians – and they will all love us because we worded the agreement so that it costs no more to get the PFI to grind them all to dust!
But don’t be frightened - this is just a fairy story – and the council wasn’t ‘Over the Rainbow’ – it was in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’.