Fiercely contested local elections are taking place across the UK this Thursday, with extra anticipation built up after a year-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
These elections have a huge impact locally, but are also an important opportunity for the electorate to send a message to parties nationally.
To help break through the noise and help you focus on the core issues when considering your vote, Sheffield Wire has analysed the pledges and policies of Sheffield’s three biggest political parties – Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and first up Labour.
Labour are currently the largest party in the Town Hall, with 45 seats out of 84, and have had control of Sheffield City Council since 2011, winning it from the Lib Dems. However, a majority in the Town Hall is only 43 and with 15 Labour councillors up for re-election this week, the party’s dominance is by no means guaranteed. Their focus is mostly on defending their record, particularly their response to the pandemic locally. However, they have also set out their plan for building back better as the UK recovers from one of the worst recessions in its history.
In a statement alongside the manifesto, party and current council leader Bob Johnson (pictured) said: “The last 12 months have had a major impact on everyone in the city and the loss of life has been truly tragic.
“It is still too early to tell what the long-term economic impact will be, but we will always act to ensure that the greatest support goes to those most in need.
“Labour has an overall majority of councillors in Sheffield, meaning we can set Labour-led objectives and policies by which Sheffield City Council is governed. This means we have been able to lead locally when this Tory government has failed to deliver – providing free school meal vouchers to 22,000 children over school holidays, 6,000 laptops to children to access home schooling during lockdown, and additional support for residents struggling via unique Sheffield hardship schemes.
“Despite the difficulties this is also an opportunity to help build back a stronger Sheffield – with a city that is fairer, more prosperous, and cleaner, greener, and safer for everyone.
“We have huge ambition for the city, and if re-elected in May we will implement all the policies within this manifesto – to empower Sheffield and build a better future.”
Labour are pledging £2m towards boosting the high street and district centres, which have suffered due to the three lockdowns and the rise of online retail. The fund aims to help businesses reopen safely as lockdown rules ease and encourage people back to local businesses.
Tackling the climate emergency
£161.5m has been pledged to green investments for 2021/22.
These include building more charging stations for electric cars, providing cycle routes, electric bikes, retro-fitted buses and air quality monitors across the city and installing external wall insulation and electrical upgrades to 22,000 council properties. The party want to plant 100,000 over the next decade and protect Green Belt land from housing developments.
They also seek to reduce the target for reaching net zero carbon emissions from 2050 to 2030.
A Labour council would build 3,100 council homes in Sheffield by 2028. “Millions” of pounds worth of upgrades to existing council properties are also planned, although the manifesto does not specify how many. £2m is to be invested into council housing repairs.
At the last council budget meeting, Labour promised £1.2m to an enforcement team for the private rented sector.
Crime and safety
The party claim to back preventative methods of tackling crime, wanting to work with South Yorkshire Police (SYP), Voluntary, Community and Faith groups (VCF), and Health and Schools, although the manifesto is light on detail as to how. They have pledged £1m to provide Community Wardens and trial more CCTV, specifically aimed at tackling litter, graffiti and fly tipping.
£4m will also be put towards road safety – building more crossings and introducing more 20mph zones.
Seeking to appear more accountable, Labour have backed reintroducing Local Area Committees, despite having scrapped them eight years ago. Decision making is due to be moved over to the committees within 18 months.
The council would also only award contracts to companies who comply with their “ethical standards”, which include paying taxes and respecting worker’s rights and equal opportunities.
Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm on 6 May 2021.