City leader attacks cuts ‘cynicism’

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THE new leader of Sheffield City Council has lambasted the previous governing party’s “cynical electioneering tactics” which she claims failed to explain how £80m of cuts would be made.

Julie Dore also attacked statements from the former Liberal Democrat administration that they had managed to limit job losses to a few hundred – she said that 800 had gone at the council, and the job losses at contractors which supply council services would probably double that figure.

Coun Dore said that her vision for the city was based on a growing economy and promised to help small businesses with a £500,000 apprenticeship scheme but was unable herself to specify cuts that would be made, stating that it was not possible until a full strategic review of council services was carried out.

Labour won a landslide victory against the Lib Dems, taking nine seats off the party. Within days of the defeat Lib Dem leader Paul Scriven announced he was standing down.

“I believe it was electioneering, I believe it was in their interests just to produce a one-year budget,” Coun Dore said. “As we know the way they have presented that budget was that they have managed to cut £80m without any pain to the members of the public, without any closures of public buildings.

“That is totally disingenuous because they have taken out the money but have not identified exactly where the cuts are going to be applied.

“For example there is the £1.4m for libraries, that was a single line in the budget, and they said no libraries will close.

“But what they told the library service was that they would need to apply that cut and keep buildings open, without any indication of how.”

The council is facing cuts of £220m. Coun Dore said her party would reverse £2.5m of savings previously outlined, including the controversial closure of Graves art gallery.

Labour will also restore £200,000 of funding for Sure Start and children’s centres and restore £200,000 funding for Police Community Support Officers.

Coun Dore said details of where the cuts would be to fund these policy changes would not be established until after a strategic review, although she did admit there would be reductions in the number of small grants offered by the authority and a revision of the way youth services are provided.

Encouraging private sector growth will be a priority and Coun Dore called on the business community to outline what changes could be made to help growth.

The authority is launching an apprenticeship scheme designed to help small businesses and get around 100 young people into employment.

“We are concerned about the number of young people, aged 16 to 25, who are currently unemployed – in Sheffield that is one in four young people in that age group at the moment, and we do not want another generation of young people, like we had in the 1980s, to get trapped in a cycle of worklessness,” Coun Dore said.

She added: “My vision for Sheffield is a growing economy, a local economy. With that we need social investment to make sure that our social fabric doesn’t fall apart.”

Meanwhile, a former Liberal Democrat councillor in Sheffield has joined the Labour group, it was announced at the weekend.

Coun Frank Taylor, who represents Gleadless Valley, left the Lib Dems in 2009 due to “disillusionment with the local leadership” and has since sat as an independent. Coun Dore said: “I would like to welcome Frank to the Labour group. It is pleasing to see that people are coming back to Labour.”