Fiercely contested local elections are finally 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, we are breaking down pledges and policies of Sheffield’s three biggest political parties. These are Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.
The Lib Dems are currently the main opposition in Sheffield, with 26 seats out of 84. They last controlled the council from 2008-2011, and before that 1999-2002. 11 of their seats will be up for election on Thursday. They will be looking to continue their trajectory from the 2019 local elections, where Labour were pushed under the 50-seat mark for the first time since 2010.
Shaffaq Mohammed (pictured), Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The pandemic hasn’t been easy but we’re getting through it by working together. Neighbours helping each other out. Friends caring for each other. Communities coming together.
“People in Sheffield want change. We’ve had 10 years of a Labour council which has lost its moral compass – from arresting peaceful protesters to wasting our council tax. For the first time in a decade, power can change in the Town Hall.
“How can it be right that leisure facilities here were told they had to close due to lack of money, meanwhile we were covering losses in Scarborough and Whitby? How can it be right that 1,600 local businesses were turned away for Covid support grants while £15m was unused and sent back to Government? How can it be right that we had to wait over a year for anything to be done after declaring a climate emergency?
“Sheffield is a great city because of the people who live here. Let’s get our councillors out of the Town Hall and into communities so everyone can be involved in making this an even better place to live.
“When it comes to the big issues facing our city over the next decade – our recovery, climate change, education, growing the economy – we know the Town Hall doesn’t and shouldn’t have all the answers. It’s people power that will move us forward, just like it’s people power that is helping us through the pandemic.
“Let’s give social care the support it needs to look after us. Let’s make public services work for us, not the other way around. Let’s support education and business to grow our economy. Let’s protect and invest in our green spaces and parks. Let’s be ambitious for our city!
“By listening and working with communities, we can put our recovery first and make Sheffield and even better place to live, work, and study.”
The Lib Dems believe businesses will be fundamental to recovering from the pandemic, so are throwing their weight behind appealing to private sector workers. They plan to ring fence 10% of the city-wide Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) for local projects and small businesses. 20% of the fund will be used to plant 200,000 trees over ten years.
They also wish to double the number of Launchpad Grants given to young people starting their own businesses and invest £2m district shopping centres. Given the rise in online retail and the movement of economic activity out of the city centre, the party plans to use now-vacant retail spaces for city living.
In response to the climate emergency, the Lib Dems plan to launch the Big Sheffield Clean Up. This aims to move Sheffield to a “reduce, re-use, recycle” economy; increase support for the “Clean Up Sheffield Task Force” which targets littering, dog fouling, fly tipping; train local volunteers to tackle graffiti; provide larger blue bins for recycling paper and cardboard; investigate options to recycle food waste; extend the opening hours of recycling centres; provide more on-street recycling bins; arrange ‘Bring out your Rubbish’ days for communities with low car ownership who find accessing recycling centres more difficult; and supply schools with air quality monitors.
Communities would be given a £50,000 ‘Greener Sheffield’ fund to invest in their environment.
They support the councils pledge to make Sheffield carbon neutral by 2030.
The Lib Dems believe the council has become too centralised under Labour, making it inefficient and unaccountable. Instead, they support the introduction of Community Assemblies and creating ways for citizens to access housing repairs, social care, and universal services directly.
An independent inquiry into Labour’s running of the “Streets Ahead” project, a road resurfacing project during which hundreds of healthy street trees were felled at the expense of the tax payer, is also being proposed.
The Lib Dems want to scrap Labour’s bus partnership and introduce a free to use city centre electric bus. As part of their devolution drive, they would reallocate decision making for over £1.3 million of transport funding to their Community Assemblies.
They support an expansion of the use of tram trains and the extension of rail or light rail services to Stocksbridge and to other areas of the city, such as the Sheaf corridor. E-cargo would be used to reduce congestion and emissions.
Crime and safety
£250,000 in grants for sporting activities for young people, including sports clubs aimed at young people at particular risk of involvement in criminal activity, is being pledged to community groups.
They would also be investing £150,000 in a task force to crack down on litter, fly-tipping, graffiti, and dog mess.
Health and Social Care
A bill has been introduced to the house of commons by the party which would secure more flexible employment rights for carers, and have released a five point plan for carers:
- Employers would have to make reasonable adjustments for carers – helping carers who wish to work to combine a job with caring.
- Carers Allowance would be boosted by 12% to £75 a week.
- The amount carers can earn before losing out on Carers Allowance would rise from £128 a week to £160 a week.
- Free public transport for young carers
- Carers would be made a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.
However, the bill would need to pass in the commons for these policies to happen, even if the Lib Dems took control of Sheffield City Council.
A Lib Dem council would build at least 100,000 homes for social rent and ensure total house building increases to 300,000 each year, prioritising the use of brownfield sites for construction. Council tenants would be provided with a “right first time” housing repair service with a single point of contact.
They would employ housing officers to provide support for people in the private rented sector, including students, who account for a significant number of the least well off in the city.
Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm on 6 May 2021.