Reconciliation much needed over Sheffield tree-felling scandal - The Yorkshire Post says

What is often overlooked in the Sheffield tree-felling scandal is the emotional impact it has had on those involved.

While protestors were clearly left distressed by the actions of the leadership at Sheffield Council with some facing threats of jail and huge legal fees resulting in mental health problems, the scandal also had an adverse effect on council staff and contractors.

Sir Mark Lowcock's report into the tree-felling programme, published earlier this week, showed some council staff faced abuse in the street over the issue. This is inexcusable and the minority of protestors that did cross the line should not have done so.

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And council leader Terry Fox is right to acknowledge that people on both sides "went through hell".

Protests against tree-felling in Sheffield in 2018. PIC: Scott MerryleesProtests against tree-felling in Sheffield in 2018. PIC: Scott Merrylees
Protests against tree-felling in Sheffield in 2018. PIC: Scott Merrylees

A reconciliation process is important because the programme left a stain on the city of Sheffield, eroding trust between the authorities and the people.

Sheffield Council’s actions escalated tensions. Some people are still carrying the stress and anxiety caused by the tree-felling programme.

“People on all sides suffered anxiety, stress, injuries and wider physical and mental health problems which, as would have been evident to anyone who watched the Inquiry’s public hearings and was even clearer from our private discussions, some continue to carry,” Sir Mark’s report said.

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Sheffield Council chief executive Kate Josephs says the council intends to personally apologise to people affected by the dispute. While it is unclear how the council intends to do that, it would be a welcome step. Part of that reconciliation will need to involve accountability. Lets not forget that the whole scandal erupted because of a failure of leadership at Sheffield Council.