Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore to step down after nine years

Coun Julie Dore
Coun Julie Dore
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Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore is quitting – she will step down at May’s local elections after nine years in charge.

Coun Dore will not seek re-election in her Park and Arbourthorne ward but will remain leader of the council until then.

She said: “My term ends this May and I have had to make a decision about carrying on for another four years. I feel that from a personal perspective, this is the right time for me to move on.

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“I truly believe in what this city stands for – its values of solidarity, collectivism, hard work, integrity, humility, grit and determination, its character and most of all its people.

“The opportunity to represent Sheffield both inside and outside of the city and to fight for our values has been such an honour for me so above all else I would like to think the people of Sheffield for giving me this opportunity.”

A councillor for 20 years, she became leader in 2011. Her announcement comes just two weeks after former chief executive John Mothersole retired from the authority.

Coun Dore added: “It has been an incredible honour to represent the community where I have grown up, lived throughout my life and my family live in and to see it transform over that time and to serve the city as Leader for the past nine years.

“I would like to thank all of the people I have worked with across the city, from so many different walks of life whose commitment and dedication to Sheffield and to all the different communities within it are so crucial in making us the city that we are.”

She came to power at the start of 10 years of Government austerity which has seen the council grapple with cuts of £460m.

“I would like to thank all the people who work for Sheffield Council and are overwhelmingly committed to public service and to the city and do their jobs to make a difference to people’s lives.

“I have been inspired by this, particularly at a time when the council has been operating in extremely challenging circumstances dealing with central government budget cuts, year after year, for a decade.”

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She said she wanted to get involved in politics to “help improve lives” and be an advocate and voice for people most in need.

“Representing Park and Arbourthorne I still see every day the injustice of inequality, which is something that is experienced from day one of your life, or even before you are born.

“It remains the case in Sheffield that whilst some of our children enjoy the best school results in the country far too many are still coming out of school without a grade C in maths and English, people are going into low paid insecure work, if and when they can get it, and it means that whilst some people are growing up in our city in some of the most affluent parts of the country, others are growing up in households on the poverty line.

“Doing everything we can to change this, is for me the focus for us as public servants and I have tried to make it something close to my heart in the decisions and service I have given over the past 20 years.

“I believe that there is no other city like Sheffield. I think its future is something that we must continue to fight for.”

Julie Dore's decade in office

Whether it’s tree felling, devolution or referendums, there’s no doubt Council Leader Julie Dore has been at the helm through a turbulent and controversial decade.

She is standing down in May after 20 years as a councillor, nine of them leading one of the biggest authorities in the country.

Her time has coincided with deep and sustained budget cuts from 10 years of austerity and she weathered a revolt from her own Deputy, Cabinet member and colleagues.

Sheffield was thrust onto the international stage with the mass tree felling programme as part of the controversial Streets Ahead contract with Amey.

Almost 10,000 people joined Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) to campaign against the mass removal of the street trees. Campaigners went to the High Court for a judicial review to halt the chopping.

Peaceful protesters were then arrested during a dawn chainsaw massacre of trees, under the Trade Union Relation Act normally used if there is industrial action. Green councillor Alison Teal was one of several protesters arrested and threatened with prison.

STAG, the council and Amey are now working together on a new approach to managing trees but there have been more protests, this time from a new campaign group.

It’s Our City campaigners have challenged the council’s Cabinet and strong leader model, saying a committee system is more democratic.

They collected a 26,000 name petition which has prompted a citywide referendum in May.

Coun Dore, aged 59, has said previously: “I fully accept as a council we should always look for continuous improvement and engagement. I don’t personally object to a committee system but I want to look at what the issues are and what the barriers are.”

The It’s Our City petition was the catalyst for some of Coun Dore’s closest allies to openly turn against her. Within hours of the petition being handed in, Deputy Council Leader Olivia Blake sensationally quit to support It’s Our City.

Cabinet member Lewis Dagnall, who is married to Coun Blake, also resigned and three more councillors came out against the leadership.

It came just three months after Coun Terry Fox challenged Coun Dore for the party leadership. He has since become Deputy Leader.

There’s also been a stalemate with fellow council leaders in South Yorkshire over devolution. The four leaders of Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster still cannot agree a deal, despite Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis being elected in May 2018.

In the background to protests and political disagreements, there’s been ever decreasing budgets and ever increasing cuts to services thanks to government austerity.

Since 2010 the council’s budget has been cut by £460 million and Coun Dore has been vocal about the impact.

She said last year: “Austerity has devastated council funding by continuously slashing government grants over the course of a decade.This has put councils across the country on the brink.

“These figures are shocking and have led to a reduction in services across the council at the same time as the impact of austerity has meant there is greater need for our services than ever and the costs of providing them are growing significantly.

“The Government is completely out of touch with the impact that its decisions have on real people’s lives and the real costs of austerity such as the avalanche of food banks and growth in homelessness.”

Former Labour Council Leader Jan Wilson was able to garner support, funding and ministerial visits thanks to a New Labour government.

By contrast, Coun Dore arrived in the aftermath of a credit crunch. She’s battled a Conservative government and seismic budget cuts, all under the shadow of Brexit.

Despite an economic downturn, Heart of the City 2 is flourishing, bringing new investment, companies, shops and jobs to the city centre.

She has always strived for equality, often saying she is proud Sheffield is a City of Sanctuary, and pioneered a Fairness Commission highlighting the gulf between the richest and most disadvantaged areas of the city.

She won her Park and Arbourthorne seat following a by-election in October 2000 but becoming leader of the fourth largest city outside of London was never a career plan.

“I never wanted to be a politician. A lot of people aspire to be politicians from early ages and progress through it as a career but I’ve never had that aspiration. I already had a young family and a career I loved. Politics for me was about changing people’s lives and making a difference.”

She’s always been passionate about being a grassroots ward councillor and will no doubt miss that aspect.

She once said: “Arbourthorne is full of people who are salt of the earth, it’s a genuinely working-class area full of characters. It has its challenges but there are some really good people.

“It makes it easier when you are embedded in the ward because more people know you and your family, you are more accessible and they believe you are one of them.

“I enjoyed being a ward councillor very much because you make changes to lots of individual lives as you do lots of case work and can get involved in policy making.”

Coun Dore lives in Gleadless with her husband of 32 years and two sons. A lot of her personal time is spent caring for son Tom, who has autism.