A LEADING councillor faced criticism yesterday as it emerged he was suing the organisers of a community festival after he apparently sustained injuries when a chair he was sitting on collapsed.
The Deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun John Campbell, is taking action against the tenants group which organises the city’s Lowedges Festival, and yesterday said he had engaged legal advisers for his claim.
But council colleagues said they were “puzzled” by his decision to sue – particularly as the claim could push the festival’s insurance premiums to a level which would make it “unsustainable” in future.
Coun Campbell, who represents the Richmond area of the city, was invited in his official capacity as Deputy Lord Mayor to open the free festival, which attracts around 10,000 people from the city each year.
The event is run by the Greenhill and Bradway Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.
Its secretary Stephen Rich told the Yorkshire Post yesterday: “The incident happened at the festival in August.
“Mr Campbell had been in Greenhill tenants’ hall, on Gervais Road, before the opening ceremony and sat down to have a drink on a garden chair when it gave way.
“He seemed to be all right and proceeded to open the event. No ambulance or medical help was asked for.
“We thought nothing of it until three months later when a letter arrived from his solicitors.”
Mr Rich said he could not reveal details of Mr Campbell’s injuries or the amount of damages he was seeking, adding that the matter was in the hands of insurers.
But he said: “In this day and age, I thought people like councillors were trying to discourage people from making claims like this. Although we are insured, the more people make claims, the more insurance goes up and then small community groups cannot afford it.”
Coun Campbell, who takes over as Sheffield’s Lord Mayor in May from current Mayor, Coun Sylvia Dunkley, said he was not able to comment on the incident and would not even confirm he had fallen from the chair.
He said: “I have no comment to make. The matter is in the hands of my legal people who have advised me not to say anything about it.”
The Deputy Mayor, who has suffered serious illness in recent years, also declined to reveal details of his injuries or the amount he is seeking in damages.
Coun Clive Skelton, who represents Beauchief and Greenhill ward on Sheffield Council, said he had concerns over his colleague’s decision to take legal action against the popular festival, which he described as a highlight of the area’s year.
He said: “I was there on the day and was judging a vintage vehicle display at the time the incident is supposed to have happened.
“The first I heard about the claim was about three weeks ago when Stephen Rich phoned me up in a real panic and said he had received a letter from solicitors about the incident. I advised him not to enter into any argument and go straight to his insurer.
“What concerns me about this whole situation is that the claim could threaten the event because it is one of the biggest of its kind in the city and is held in one of its most deprived areas.
“It doesn’t cost anyone anything to attend, but it is run on a very tight budget and it would such a shame if one claim like this led to a situation where the festival could no longer go ahead.
“John seemed all right when he opened the festival and I was walking around with him on the day and there were no signs of injuries. It surprised me that he had made a claim.”