Offering support in a tough year

From: Coun Shaffaq Mohammed

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Sheffield City Council

I hope, like me, people in Sheffield are looking forward to 2012 – the year that we all hope will see Jessica Ennis pick up gold in London, England lift the Euro 2012 trophy, and at least one Sheffield team promoted up the football league (preferably Wednesday, but I’m biased!).

Despite this I know that the perilous state of the global economy means that 2012 will be a tough for many people.

However, I’m pleased that Liberal Democrats in Government will support struggling families this year by once again providing the resources to freeze Council Tax bills, cutting income tax for the lowest earners and investing £11 million extra in Sheffield schools, to help even more local disadvantaged children.

But as families incomes are squeezed, so too the council will face difficult decisions as the Government continues to clear up the debt left by Labour.

Although money from the Government grant is being reduced by £23m next year, there are still some real choices to be made about how local people’s taxes are spent.

For example, we believe that money currently being wasted on pet projects like the £2m of local taxpayers’ money spent on Park Hill Flats, could be better used to protect vital front line services and community facilities.

We also feel that 2012 should be the year the council supports local businesses to grow. Unfortunately the local Liberal Democrats’ numerous new ideas to help business, such as setting up a new Sheffield Investment Bank and beginning free parking initiatives have both been vetoed by Labour councillors.

If Council Leader Julie Dore commits to one New Year’s resolution, I hope that she swallows her pride and accepts that good common-sense policies can come from places other than Labour Party HQ.