Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore has said opposition councillors who walked out of a meeting in protest 'abandoned their duty to represent local people'.
Green, Lib Dem and UKIP councillors walked out of the full council meeting yesterday afternoon in support of Nether Edge councillor Alison Teal after she was expelled from the chamber due to 'defamatory' comments.
Ms Teal had said Labour cabinet member Coun Bryan Lodge has 'misled' the public over the city's controversial tree felling programme.
Ms Teal was arrested during a protest over tree felling back in February on Chippinghouse Road. She was initially charged but had the case dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The council's chief executive, John Mothersole, ruled that a Green councillor's comments were 'defamatory' but Ms Teal 'refused to withdraw them'.
Ms Dore said opposition councillors were using this protest as a 'political football' and were 'far more interested in grandstanding' and 'scoring political points'.
The walkout happened during a debate regarding the proposed felling of a number of trees along Ecclesall Road in Sheffield Town Hall yesterday
A vote was held and Ms Teal was thrown out of the chamber by 49 votes to 21.
Labour Coun Jack Scott said Ms Teal had resorted to 'gutter politics'.
But Lib Dem Coun Paul Scriven, who represents the Ecclesall ward, said the ruling Labour group was running the council like 'Stalinist Russia' and current meetings were 'not fit for purpose'.
Coun Julie Dore said: “It’s a sad day when opposition councillors have walked away from the debate, which is something you’d expect to see in the school playground. It’s hard to draw any other conclusion than they have no interest in resolving this issue and are just using it as a political football.
"When the petitioners were asking to work with the council to resolve these issues they have chosen the leave the room and walk out of the debate instead of discussing the issues.
“At a meeting where we were taking votes on air quality, the economy, schools funding, Eastern Avenue Job Centre the opposition have effectively chosen to walk away from these issues as well. Unfortunately this shows that they are far more interested in grandstanding and scoring political points than debating these very serious issues and representing local people.”
Ms Teal told The Star: "I was a bit shook up by it but I was speaking the truth. These are the facts as I see them.
"If they want to expel me for that then so be it.
"All I did was stand up for my constituents who feel they have been misled. I gave the example of flexi-pave where Cllr. Lodge previously admitted he was wrong.”
Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, Leader of the Liberal Democrats said “There comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. Not only are Labour not listening to the people of Sheffield, they don’t want to listen to the people elected to represent them.
"This Labour council’s attitude to free speech is now stopping us from representing the interests of our constituents, which is what we are here to do.”
Coun Rob Murphy, leader of the Green group said “Freedom of speech shouldn’t stop as you enter the council chamber. We fully support Councillor Teal.”
Coun Jack Clarkson, leader of the UKIP group said “I’d have walked out if it had happened to any one of us. I’m fed up of the debate being stifled by Labour.”