Sheffied tree campaigners slam council’s ‘scandalously weak’ response to inquiry

Tree campaigners said a motion proposed by Sheffield Council responding to the damning tree felling inquiry was “scandalously weak”.

Councillors are scheduled to address the findings of Sir Mark Lowcock’s inquiry in a long-awaited extraordinary meeting today but tree campaigners said what was proposed was a “totally inadequate response”.

The council’s motion is to accept the findings and commit to co-creating solutions that provide better accountability and meet all of Sir Lowcock’s recommendations, but campaigners said they were “astounded” when they first saw the motion and sent suggestions for improvement.

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Suggestions included the authority reporting itself to the National Crime Agency, immediate resignations from those involved and the installation of a plaque in the entrance to the Town Hall recognising campaigners.

Sheffield tree campaignersSheffield tree campaigners
Sheffield tree campaigners

In a statement they said: “For the council to be able to fix its severe governance problems, it will need courage and integrity that recognises the seriousness of the problem and the internal and deep-seated barriers to change that it faces.

“Without a more courageous and genuine motion, that shows the council and councillors have really taken on board the seriousness of the dysfunction and misconduct exposed in the report, the meeting will once again be a demonstration that their aim is to continue to avoid accountability or the real change required to solve Sheffield’s governance problems.”

Sir Lowcock’s long-awaited report – which was commissioned as part of a power sharing deal between Labour and the Green Party when the former lost control of the council – sought “truth and reconciliation” following the infamous Streets Ahead programme that aimed to fell 17,500 street trees as part of a £2.2 billion contract between the council and Amey.

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The report showed the council overstretched its authority in taking drastic action against campaigners, had serious and sustained failures in leadership and misled the public, courts and an independent panel it set up to deal with the dispute.

In an early response to the report, the council said: “What is clear is that there were some serious errors of judgement and we apologise unequivocally…

“We have been making significant steps to be better and do better. There is a long way to go, but we are a changing organisation. We accept our apology can only go so far, and the people of Sheffield deserve to see results.

“We have some work to do to regain the trust of the people…We hope that this report marks the end of the dispute and the start of the reconciliation.”

The meeting will take place from 2pm, the link to the agenda and live webcast can be found here.