From: Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrat group
AFTER a week of high emotion involving the trial of four Sheffield citizens at the High Court, brought about by its own Labour-run city council, it’s time to act to bring our city together.
At the start of the trial, the judge Justice Males, had to halt proceedings to seek assurances that the legal action taken against the four Sheffield residents had the authority of democratically elected cabinet members at the council, not just paid officers of the council. The leader of the council Julie Dore’s response was that she was “happy” and “positively agreed” with the proceedings.
What this trial has shown is that there are huge divisions within our city at the moment around what is happening. What we now need is leadership from Sheffield City Council. They need to seek compromise and reconciliation with the tree campaigners if our city is to move forward.
At the moment, we continue to make the news for all the wrong reasons, both locally and nationally.
While people should be talking up our city’s great natural environment, our successful universities and our proud manufacturing and creative industries, all that people are currently talking about when they hear Sheffield is how a city council is trying to imprison its own citizens who are standing up for what they believe in, the retention of healthy trees.
Our approach would be different.
We can’t go on threatening local citizens with prison. We must seek compromise and reconciliation.
The injunction is a civil one, so it is entirely within Julie Dore’s power to stop taking people to court. How will campaigners ever trust the city council if they’re worried about imprisonment?
People need to be involved in what happens with their green environment.
We would work with and listen to communities. We would come up with local solutions rather than a ‘Town Hall knows best’ approach.
Transparency is the way out of this mess.
If this contract is to stay, then we will be tough on renegotiating what is done and how it is done to improve our great communities and green wonderful city.
We will also seek the truth by having an independent, open, judge-led inquiry to learn lessons for the future of how the council got the city into this mess.
It’s time to bring our city together.