Terry Fox: Sheffield Council leader to be forced out following trees scandal

Labour is set to force the leader of Sheffield Council to step down following a series of failures such as the tree felling scandal in the city, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Sheffield is among several areas in the country that have seen “campaign improvement boards” established by Labour HQ, to improve failing local parts of the party ahead of the general election.

In a leaked copy of an internal report into Labour in the South Yorkshire city, the Sheffield trees scandal from 2016 was cited as one of the reasons the party has been failing locally after losing its majority on the council in 2021.

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It is understood that Terry Fox, the leader of the Sheffield City Council, will be replaced and a new leader selected as soon as this month, in addition to other appointments which will be overseen by Labour’s National Executive Committee.

Sheffield Council leader Terry Fox said he will not resignSheffield Council leader Terry Fox said he will not resign
Sheffield Council leader Terry Fox said he will not resign

Sheffield today will see the results of the council elections in the city, where a third of the seats are up for grabs.

Earlier this year Mr Fox refused to resign following the damning street tree inquiry, with the report noting that the scheme was “flawed from the moment the contract was signed” and was a “dark episode in Sheffield”.

“I think the easy option would be to resign and not face up to this situation but we are determined to come out to apologise and move forward for our city,” he said at the time.

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The inquiry found that the council had overreached its authority by taking legal action against campaigners who opposed the mass felling of trees in the city, as well as serious failures in leadership and misleading the public and the courts.

Mr Fox was one of the central figures during the scandal alongside his fellow Labour councillor Bryan Lodge, who quit last month without mentioning the project which removed around 5,600 trees from Sheffield's streets.

The Labour councillor has been leader since 2021 but was responsible for the Streets Ahead contract – the £2.2 billion PFI agreement at the heart of controversy – between 2015 and 2016.

The scandal, which peaked between 2016 and 2018, saw police deployed in vans on Sheffield’s leafiest streets and more than 40 people arrested.

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Nick Clegg, the former Sheffield MP, described one of the protests as more like a well-planned anti-terror operation than a morning of tree maintenance, while Michael Gove, the then-environment secretary accused Sheffield City Council of “environmental vandalism”.

The internal Labour report into the party in Sheffield found that residents felt the Labour-run council was out of touch.

It is understood that party figures also had concerns over other mistakes in the city such as the Fargate container park which saw the council spend more than £420,000 on the scheme.

Labour currently holds 39 of the 84 seats on Sheffield City Council, with the Liberal Democrats and Greens holding 29 and 14 respectively.

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Sir Keir Starmer’s party lost overall control of the council in 2021, losing another councillor last year.

Polling work by YouGov suggested that the council will likely remain at a state of “no overall control” when the results are announced later today.

Labour currently holds all but one of the seats around Sheffield with Tory MP Mirriam Cates holding Penistone and Stocksbridge.

Olivia Blake narrowly saw off the Liberal Democrats in 2019 to win Sheffield Hallam for Labour with a majority of 712.