THERE is near-universal agreement that the dozens of police officers being sent out to oversee tree-felling operations in Sheffield on an almost-daily basis could be of much greater use working on their normal duties.
However, it is at that point views divulge dramatically. On the one hand, the force’s chief constable Stephen Watson, backed by Sheffield MPs Louise Haigh and Paul Blomfield, argues that increasingly-heated confrontations between campaigners and private security guards hired by Sheffield Council contractor Amey means the presence of large numbers of officers is an unfortunate necessity.
On the other, former Sheffield Council leader Lord Scriven, along with tree campaigners, says the numbers being sent to oversee operations are far greater than what is required. More seriously, questions have been raised about whether the force is acting in an impartial manner, especially given it is allowing Sheffield Council staff to share its premises during felling operations.
Fresh revelations in The Yorkshire Post that the police currently have no information about how much these efforts are costing them will cause further consternation amongst taxpayers in South Yorkshire who will see the policing element of their council tax bill increase by 7.6 per cent from next month. It all provides yet more evidence as to why felling work in the city should be put on hold so meaningful talks can take place with local residents. Both Ms Haigh and Mr Blomfield have called for such action to be taken. Sheffield Council needs to heed those calls before its reputation, and that of the police, is further damaged.