Labour councillors secure new funds for neighbourhoods and renewable energy – but green councillors fail to vote for their own budget!
In May 2021 Labour and Green councillors agreed to a co-operation agreement to ensure a stable council administration. It was agreed that party politics would be put aside in the interests of the city and a number of commitments were made as part of this agreement, including delivering a balanced budget.
This agreement meant a Co-Operative Executive was formed, being politically proportionate with seven Labour members and three Green.
The pandemic has placed an enormous strain on Sheffield’s budget, and coupled with a decade of sustained funding cuts from central government, the council has lost £211m (29%) reduction in its core spending power. As such all Co-Operative Exec members have had to find significant savings within their portfolios.
A balanced budget was agreed by the Labour-Green Co-Operative Exec on 16th February.
However, despite the budget being part owed by Green members, they sensationally refused to vote for it – despite agreeing to it just two weeks ago.
Sheffield Green Councillors voted with Liberal Democrats against the proposed Budget – which they co-owned with Labour.
In a farcical town hall meeting – Labour’s budget amendment initially won the backing of a majority, with Labour and Green councillors voting for it. This would have secured around £7.5 million investment into neighbourhoods and renewable energy.
However, the main budget was then put to the vote and shockingly this was rejected – as Green councillors voted against it.
This meant that the council had no legal budget agreed – pushing council finances into a disastrous position.
The vote was then taken again. Once again, the Labour amendment was given the green light, but the main council budget was this time agreed. Green councillors changed their decision and now abstained, and the liberal democrats voted against it.
Speaking about this Cllr Cate McDonald (Executive Member for Finance) said:
“Setting this year’s budget has been immensely hard and has meant some tough choices being made none of us would want to make.
“But we have all had to look at where savings can be made – and these were agreed by both Labour and Green groups. In fact only two weeks ago the Co-Operative Executive publicly agreed to the budget proposals.
“Though it has been tough, we have delivered a budget which has continued to maintain essential services that meet the needs of our city, whilst rising to the massive increased demand.
“It is simply beggars belief that the Green Party has at this final stage failed to support their own budget.
“Some of these cuts were put forward from their portfolios by their Co-Operative Exec members. So it goes to show how divided their party is. They can’t even support their own Executive decisions.
“A key thing about leadership is you have to be responsible. And yet Sheffield Green councillors are trying to play politics and not facing up to their responsibility.
“Thankfully we eventually got to a good place – with the main Budget being passed, alongside extra spending commitments we wanted to see.
“If it weren’t for Labour the council’s finances could have been pushed into a disastrous position – but we’re putting Sheffield first and acting sensibly”.
What have Labour added to the Budget?
Labour put forward a series of additional funding commitments- including towards supporting local shopping centres, renewable energy, supporting neighbourhoods and helping residents through the cost-of-living crisis.
This will now all be enacted.
Speaking about the successful Labour amendment Council Leader Terry Fox said:
“It’s clear that the city is facing a cost-of-living crisis. It’s also clear that as a council we need to respond in a way that roots support in our communities.
“We’re also facing a climate crisis, but the two are interlinked and we can’t pursue policies that hit people the pockets when they’re already struggling. Climate polices need to also be about positive change for people – and what we proposed will do just that, by investing more in renewable energy for community hubs and council homes. This will keep bills down as well as helping to reduce carbon emissions.
“We also proposed another £2 million into our district centres. This was a Labour Manifesto commitment last year and it has delivered throughout the city. We want to go again next year and cover even more ground.
“We can also now put extra funding into tackling social isolation, food poverty, and extra funds to support a greater focus on street cleaning.
Note to editors:
Labour’s amendment in full:
District/Local Centres – £2m
£2 million to support the city’s district and local centres’ economic recovery. This will build on the programme delivered last year through the Covid-19: Economic Recovery Plan.
This will be earmarked for outside of the city centre.
Intervention and prevention – £1 m
Direct funding support for specific projects to help community organisations to tackle social isolation.
Street Clean Enforcement £500k
Street clean environmental enforcement one-off funding directed specifically to the areas of most need, to deal with issue around litter, vermin and street cleaning.
Extend Household Waste Recycling Centres openings to 7 days a week – £281,000
All sites open 7 days per week from Apr 1st to Sep 22 (Summer hours 9:30 to 17:30)
This would see the sites operate the same opening hours as seen during the same period in 2021 and will help to mitigate against the increased risk of queuing issues seen during the Summer months.
Local renewable energy for community and council buildings £3.5 million
Help to tackle Sheffield fuel poverty and drive forward our Clean Growth Agenda
Sheffield has declared a Climate Emergency and set a target for the city to be net zero carbon by 2030. The Pathways to Decarbonisation for Sheffield report produced by ARUP acknowledges the important role that small scale renewables will have in Sheffield meeting its decarbonisation targets.
To lead by example and to decarbonise appropriate buildings utilised by our communities, a proposal of £3.5m capital investment is sought to install renewable energy along with the required energy efficiency measures to support the installation of renewable energy on our estate, especially community hubs, such as schools, libraries, community centres and review council housing stock that may also be potential.
These schemes will not only support the decarbonisation of the council’s estate but will also instigate supply chain and low carbon business and skills opportunities in the local economy. Any schemes will be subject to full feasibility and business case.
As part of this funding, we will also look at how we keep the excess energy from the district heating network and explore options around an energy storage facility.
The funding will also be used to help lever in additional external grant funding such as the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme through which the Council has previously secured £1.0m for the decarbonisation of 4 council buildings. As the funding requirements become tighter, any capital from the Council can help increase the amount of grant funding.
Celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – £100k
After the last two years, the very least Sheffielders deserve is a party. The four-day bank holiday weekend in June presents an ideal opportunity, with the city coming together to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee to mark her historic 70-year reign.
There will be no charge to residents to close roads for street parties and Council led events will be put on, together with extra funding for communities to deliver street parties and local pageants.
£100k for defibrillators for community centres
Working with community groups and charities to help match-fund their bids to install Public Access Defibrillators (cPADs). Specific consideration for match-funding will be directed to areas without much current coverage.
£200k for Food Access Plan
Extra support to help develop further and strengthen the food access plan, including increasing food sustainability and supporting luncheon clubs