Clegg Corrected By Council Chief Exec Over False Claims

Nick Clegg faces rebuke from Sheffield City Council
Nick Clegg faces rebuke from Sheffield City Council

Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been delivered an embarassing letter by Sheffield City Council’s independent Chief Executive, spelling out the untruths he has recently made about the council’s budget.

In recent weeks Mr Clegg has been caught misinterpreting Sheffield City Council finances in a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the huge cuts that his Government are making to Sheffield. Sheffield City Council has to save £50 million next year, in addition to the £140 million it has had to cut over the past two years, whilst some of the wealthiest areas in the country receive almost no cuts at all.

At its February meeting Sheffield City Council asked the Council’s Chief Executive to write to Nick Clegg correcting inaccurate claims he has made on a number of issues.

The letter corrects Nick Clegg’s inaccurate claims around the council’s work to save money on accommodation costs and essential Town Hall maintenance. The letter also points out that contrary to his claims, Sheffield City Council has the lowest useable reserves of any large local authority in England and also corrects incorrect Lib Dem claims on consultant spending.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said:

“It is a damning indictment of the untruths that Nick Clegg has been telling that we have had to ask the Chief Executive to write to him to correct the misinformation that he has been putting out in recent weeks.

“The fact is that across the country cities like Sheffield are being forced to make unprecedented reductions to services because of the massive cuts that as Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is responsible for. At the same time as we are being forced to make these cuts some of the wealthiest areas of the country are receiving almost no cuts at all. Instead of continuing to try to mislead the people of Sheffield about council spending Mr Clegg should stand up to the Tories and tell them to give Sheffield a fair deal.”

Nick Clegg and Lib Dems deliberate attempt to mislead the Sheffield public.

There’ve been so many stories in the media recently regarding the Council’s reserves that you’d think that Mr Clegg and his Lib Dem party in Sheffield would have checked their facts before launching in to their pathetic claims that Sheffield is sitting on huge reserves that could be used to protect front line services. In an open letter, Nick claims that Sheffield has £167m reserves, a figure he has taken from the Council’s ‘statement of accounts’ that has a line labelled ‘useable reserves’. What he conveniently failed to say was that many of these are earmarked to cover committed expenditure, some as the result of national legislation.  For example, it includes £26 million that we are looking after for, and belonging to, Sheffield’s schools; £25 million that can only be spent on council housing; and, £57 million that is committed to our ‘capital programme’ – the really big projects that span a number of years like rebuilding schools, new road schemes, major building repairs and so on. Government rules are very clear that we cannot spend this money on services. Other committed reserves for major capital projects, such as ‘Streetsahead’ of around £48million leave a true ‘useable reserves’ figure of around £11million. Now we could, in theory, use this money to support services, but would that be wise? To put this in context, when Sheffield was devastated by flooding a few years ago, the council spent over £7million that wasn’t recoverable from government compensation schemes; recent bad winters have seen an additional spend of over £2millon to support measures across the council. Our reserves are in fact equivalent to a household that spends £20,000 per year and keeps just £170 in case of emergencies. It makes sense to keep some cash back ‘just in case’.

Leader of the Lib Dems in Sheffield, Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed, seems equally inclines to mislead the public as he too has indicated that he would use reserves to support next year’s budget. Is this a case of misrepresentation of the facts, or an attempt to mislead the public? Or maybe it’s more an indication of just how little Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in Sheffield understand about economic and accounting procedures. Time for Nick and Shaffaq to apologise, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Labour SYPCC Shaun Wright Visits Birley Ward

Labour South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate Shaun Wright Visits Birley Ward
Labour South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate Shaun Wright and Councillor Denise Fox Discuss Crime Priorities with a Birley Ward Resident

On Saturday, Labour’s candidate for the vital post of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner visited Birley Ward. Shaun Wright joined Councillor Bryan Lodge, Councillor Denise Fox, Councillor Harry Harpham and Birley Ward Labour Party Secretary Mike Drabble in touring Basegreen, where he talked to residents about their crime priorities.

Over the course of the morning many vigorous doorstep discussions took place, with residents leaving Shaun in no doubt as to the  issues the police should focus on. Shaun went away with a clear idea of their concerns – including anti-social behaviour, burglaries and the impact of drugs on communities – and pledged to do his best to address them if elected. He said:

“Visiting areas such as Basegreen is extremely valuable: there’s no substitute for talking to people and learning their views on how crime affects them. Unlike the other candidates, if elected I’ll make sure I continue to listen to the people to ensure South Yorkshire Police is not only a model of efficient policing but a force that is totally responsive to the needs of the community it serves.”

Having spent time with Shaun during his campaign, we at Birley Labour Party have no hesitation in urging all inhabitants of South Yorkshire to vote for him on November 15th. He is the only candidate for South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner that will defend front-line policing, oppose privatisation of our police force, and ensure that the police serve the interests of each and every community across the county.

Birley Councillors Join in March for Pensions

Cllrs Denise Fox, Karen McGowan and Bryan Lodge with Ivy Marshall of Sheffield Pensioners Action Group

Birley Councillors Denise Fox, Karen McGowan and Bryan Lodge joined the recent Sheffield Pensioners Action Group (SPAG) march to draw attention to the fight for Fairer Pensions.  The march through Sheffield City Centre set out from Exchange street, near SPAG’s office on The Gallery, and made it’s way up to the City Hall were members were addressed by Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention who had travelled up from London especially for the event.  Of great concern to many pensioners is current level of basic state pension at  £102 per week when people living on an income below £110 per week are considered to be living in poverty. Other speakers who addressed the gathering included Cllr Peter Price who serves as the Chair of SPAG, Jackie Milner, Secretary of Spag, Ben Morris of NUT and Cllr Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources on Sheffield City Council.

Tories/LibDems Force Punitive Cuts on Sheffield

Nick Clegg Doesn't Care About The Cuts Attacking Sheffield - He'll Be Long Gone!
Nick Clegg Doesn’t Care About The Cuts Attacking Sheffield – He’ll Be Long Gone!

As may be seen in our previous post, Sheffield City Council has just issued a press release regarding the Council’s budget for the near future.

It’s important that all residents of our city read it, as it sets out the extremely tough financial environment the council will have to operate in in the next few years and beyond. Press and political opponents will no doubt paint this as ‘Labour cuts’, but these cuts are entirely the result of the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition slashing the money that Sheffield receives from council tax receipts raised in the city. It’s true that councils across the country are facing reduced funding, but these reductions are both disproportionate and partisan: so far Sheffield has lost £280 per head of population (with more to come), while Tory/Lib Dem councils in the south have lost much less. Dorset, for instance, has only lost £40 per head!

Given this, it’s essential that all people striving to build a better Sheffield find out for themselves the extent of the Tory/Lib Dem attack on our city, and then set the record straight in discussion with family, friends and work colleagues. These cuts are not Labour’s doing: they’re the scheme of a government that has it in for working class people, and that message has to be heard. It would be scandalous for hard-working Labour councillors to take the blame for this, thus letting in the Lib Dems again… the very party that’s colluding in this brutal attack on our public services!

But the most shocking thing is that this attack on Sheffield’s being driven by one of our city’s own MPs! Co-architect of the cuts Nick Clegg doesn’t care, though: he has no illusions about getting re-elected in Sheffield, and no doubt has already lined up some lucrative job at the EU for when the cuts truly hit and the voters of Sheffield show him what they think at the next election.

If you’d like any more information on this, please don’t hesitate to contact your Labour Councillor (for Birley Ward, these are Councillors Bryan Lodge, Denise Fox and Karen McGowan).

It’s up to the people of Sheffield to ensure that the Tories and Lib Dems get the credit they deserve for what they’re doing to our great city.

 

Bigger Budget Cuts Destined for Sheffield – Press Release

Sheffield City Council News Release

Sheffield will have to deal with greater cuts from Government than originally anticipated which will mean tougher decisions will have to be made on where tight resources could be spent.

That is the stark but realistic warning made by Sheffield City Council leaders as they continue to plan for the budget challenges from April next year.

The local authority was bracing itself for £40m worth of Government cuts in funding for 2013/14 but now expects to have a further £10m less to spend on services and deal with additional pressures such as energy bills, rising prices and increasing demand for its services.“I am passionate about Sheffield and providing good value for money services to local people but the latest news that we will be hit even harder is a real body blow and without doubt savage and unfair,” said Cllr Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council.

“Over the last two years the Council has made £141m of cuts to services as a result of the Government’s austerity programme. That equates to around £280 for every resident in this city thanks to the reduction in grants to us as a council.

“That places added strain on already stretched resources. So now we are working hard to focus on where we can possibly spend less.

“Whilst we are unable to go into detail at the moment as we now need more time to find these savings and consider proposals to take to the public, we can be certain of one thing, things will have to change as we cannot afford to stand still.

“I will not at this moment guarantee what that change will look like, what I can guarantee is that we will continue to protect services for those people who need it the most and work with businesses and our partners to make the most of opportunities to help the local economy grow and Sheffield continues to have its sights firmly set on the brightest future possible,” she added.

The Council has already drilled down on costs and saved £6m a year on IT by using an outside contractor, a further £1m could be reduced from directors’ pay bill as part of a proposed restructure which is currently out to consultation with staff affected and saving £12m this year and a further £50m over the life of the of Streets Ahead scheme to improve and maintain the city’s roads by reorganising how it is financed to save money.

“We are under no illusion that the months ahead and indeed years, are going to be the toughest we have faced in generations thanks to a double whammy of cut upon cut by the Government, “ said Cllr Bryan Lodge, Cabinet member for Finance and Resources.

“We will do all we can to reduce our spending in a fair way and minimise the impact, where we can, on our communities, However, at the moment, there is very little that we can rule in or out as we put the spotlight on our spending. It will be tough but we hope local communities will understand the position we are now put in and wherever possible work with us,” he said.

Ends

Why Do Sheffield Lib Dems Oppose Successful Bus Partnerships?

Norman Baker MP Tells Sheffield Lib Dems What To Do With Their Transport Policy
Norman Baker MP Tells Sheffield Lib Dems What To Do With Their Transport Policy

Despite increasing numbers of cities seeing the real benefits of Bus Partnerships, Sheffield Liberal Democrats are still opposing them. Along with their Green Party allies, they’re continuing to advocate the outdated ‘Quality Contract’ model for bus service provision, despite it being more costly for the taxpayer and less responsive to the wishes of the travelling public.

Their position is so wrong, even their own Transport Secretary – Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker – opposes them! In a recent policy document – ‘Green Light for Better Buses’ – he wrote:

“…recognises the welcome difference that partnerships are making up and down the country. Collaborations between local authorities, operators and passengers are helping co-ordinate timetables in Liverpool, Oxford and Sheffield…They are succeeding because they combine local knowledge of what passengers want in their area with the resources to make a difference.”

A Voluntary Bus Partnership – a key policy of Sheffield Labour Party – is by far the best way to run the city’s bus system, as it is more affordable, better integrated with other transport options, and much more in tune with the needs of the bus users of Sheffield. Furthermore, since it involves passenger groups, the bus companies and the local authority working together, the Partnership can be changed quickly and effectively as issues arise. Councillor Leigh Bramall, Labour Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development, said:

“The bus partnership is the best deal for Sheffield and it is supported by cross-party MP’s at a national level. Norman Baker has praised Sheffield for its collaborative approach to improving bus services in the city. The Lib Dems are trying to score political points by stalling improvements and are not concerned about the best interests of Sheffield residents.”

The opposition of Sheffield’s Lib Dems to the city’s successful Bus Partnership is yet another sign of their increasing disarray. Not only do they oppose the needs of Sheffield’s travelling public, they’re now in conflict with the preferred policy of the senior transport spokesman of their own party! If the Lib Dems’ last administration wasn’t so damaging to Sheffield, we might even be starting to feel sorry for them…

Kash Walayat OBE for South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner: Birley Branch Endorsements

Kash Walayat OBE
Kash Walayat OBE

The Labour Party’s decision on whom to nominate for South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner is imminent. Given the importance of this post, it is essential that the best candidate is put forward to contest the full election in November.

Birley Branch Labour Party is pleased to announce a number of endorsements for Kash Walayat OBE: Councillor Bryan Lodge, Councillor Karen McGowan, Councillor Denise Fox and membership secretary Mike Drabble are all convinced that Kash Walayat OBE is the right person for the job.

His skills, experience and connections with all sections of the community mean he is better placed than any other candidate to offer effective oversight of South Yorkshire Police in what will be a challenging time for our local force. In addition, Kash Walayat OBE has demonstrated his commitment to the post by giving up his highly paid civil service job to stand: something none of the other candidates can say!

So we urge all local Labour Party members to vote for Kash Walayat OBE for South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. He’s a long-standing Labour member that has worked hard for the party in the past, and will work hard for the people of South Yorkshire in the future.

 

Bryan Lodge, Karen McGowan and Denise Fox Greet Labour Deputy Leader

Bryan Lodge With Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman
Bryan Lodge With Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman

Bryan Lodge, Karen McGowan and Denise Fox met Harriet Harman today. She came to speak outside the City Hall and show her support to the Sheffield Labour Candidates.

The Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman took to those very same steps to launch a new Labour Party document called “Caught Yellow Handed”. It exposes the Lib Dems campaign in these local elections for what it is – hypocritical and the same old Lib Dems – saying one thing, doing another”. She said

“Lib Dem literature across the country is conspicuously lacking any trace of Nick Clegg on it. In Sheffield some of their leaflets don’t even have any Lib Dem logos on! Don’t let them get away with it send a clear message to the Lib Dems and help Labour win on 3 May”.

It was raining but the prople of Sheffield stood and listened to what she had to say. It was a moral boost to the candidates and she welcomed by the Council Leader Julie Dore.

Clive Betts MP also came and listened to Harriet.

Linda McAvan MEP’s Spring Report

My Spring Report which covers my work in Yorkshire and the Humber and in the European Parliament over the past few months is now online.

You can view it at: Linda McAvan MEP’s Spring Report (report in .pdf format)

As the extent of two health scandals have become clear in recent months, both emanating in France but affecting people across Europe, much of my committee work has focussed on revising health regulations at European level. Many of you will be aware of the breast implant scandal, but an equally shocking failure of regulation was exposed after it was discovered a French drug company had left a drug widely believed to have harmful side effects on the market for several years, causing the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands of people. As the spokesperson for the Socialists and Democrats group on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, closing these regulatory loopholes and improving coordination between national and European regulators has been at the forefront of my work recently.

These startling cases also show how interconnected we are with other European countries. With stronger Europe-wide legislation and closer working relationships between national institutions these health scares could have been prevented or at least better contained.

In contrast to the progress we are making in reforming European health regulations, there still appears no obvious end to the Eurozone crisis. With right-wing governments across Europe determined to savagely slash public spending and with unemployment as high as 20% in some European countries, economic recovery in the short term seems unlikely to a lot of people. Across Europe millions are out of work, pensions and wages are being cut, yet still there is little to no growth, particularly in the UK. Labour and our sister parties are campaigning for more investment in jobs to kickstart the economy and drive Europe forward. Austerity is not working.

As we know, there is an alternative to cuts and it is up to us as Labour Party members to effectively communicate our vision out of economic trouble to the rest of the country. We have a perfect opportunity to make our voices heard at the forthcoming local elections.

Best of luck to all candidates and I look forward to seeing many of you out on the campaign trail.

If you are a Twitter user then please feel free to follow me on http://twitter.com/lindamcavanmep

Best wishes,
Linda McAvan
Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber

Tory / Lib Dem Government To Cut Helicopter

Labour Members of South Yorkshire Police Authority are fighting the Coalition Governments proposals to get rid of South Yorkshire’s helicopter. 

The original proposals from the National Police Air Service (NPAS) meant the existing South Yorkshire based helicopter would have been absorbed into the national structure, and that the county would have received air cover from bases in West Yorkshire, Humberside and Derbyshire, with significantly longer response times for most of the area. The Police Authority voted to keep the helicopter, only to be told by the government that this wouldn’t be allowed. “It’s great for the Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems to bang on about support for the Localism agenda that David Cameron and the Tories are rolling out, but when it comes down to an issue that local people really want, our own dedicated police helicopter, our views don’t count” said Cllr Bryan Lodge “Why isn’t Mr Clegg standing up for the people of Sheffield and South Yorkshire against this government? It seems localism is OK, but only where it suits the Coalition Government!”

 

Andy Burnham MP Visits Sheffield

Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham  MP, came to Sheffield today for the regional launch of Labour’s local election campaign. During his visit to Sheffield, Andy took time out for a chat with local Birley councillors Bryan Lodge and Karen McGowan.  We discussed concerns raised by members of the public across Birley over the recent Tory/ Lib Dem imposed changes to the NHS and cuts to Police numbers in the region.  Andy confirmed that a future Labour government will reverse the NHS changes.

Cllr Julie Dore, Leader Sheffield City Council, Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health with Birley Cllrs Bryan Lodge and Karen McGowan