Thousands of people are calling on Jeremy Corybn to intervene in a crisis; one where police have arrested dozens of people, including pensioners. But campaigners may be in for a long wait. Because it’s a Labour council that people are growing increasingly angry at.
Our green and pleasant land?
As The Canary previously reported, Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) is campaigning against the felling of trees around Sheffield. The city’s Labour-led council is undertaking a 25-year, £2bn highway maintenance programme which includes the felling of around 6,000 trees.
In 2012, the council gave outsourcing company Amey the contract for street maintenance; and therefore tree felling. But STAG claims that Amey has ignored 30 years of agreements on street trees. The council based the agreements on consultations with local communities. But STAG says:
Amey have a clear profit motive – if they blitz the city’s trees in the first five years of their 25-year contract, they can spend the next 20 years with much lower maintenance costs.
Subverting democracy, Labour-style
Since 2014, residents have been protesting about the planned felling of trees. STAG claims that the council has felled 3,800 trees so far, with more to follow. The group wants the council to stop felling trees until a proper consultation has taken place. But after a series of high-profile demonstrations, one which saw two pensioners arrested and 12 police officers present to protect the council’s work, the Labour-led authority took protesters to the High Court.
On 15 August, the judge in the case ordered that Green Party councillor Alison Teal and two campaigners, Calvin Payne and David Dillner, are barred from taking “unlawful direct action or from encouraging others to take direct action” against the tree felling.
After the ruling, the council said that anyone who tried to protest “inside a safety zone” around the tree felling area would be in contempt of court and face the risk of a fine or imprisonment.
Better call Corbyn
Mr Corbyn is widely seen, even by his detractors, as a person of integrity and political principle. He is a committed parliamentarian whilst also a supporter of active citizenship. With these qualities he might command the respect of both parties in this dispute.
So far, the petition has got nearly 4,000 signatures. But, as yet, Corbyn hasn’t responded.
In a statement, Bryan Lodge (the council’s cabinet member for the environment) said:
For more than a year we have worked tirelessly with Amey and the local community to find the right solution for Rustlings Road. [The Council has] written to every home, brought in a new survey process for the entire city and set up an independent tree panel. We have made a final decision to increase the number of trees on Rustlings Road by almost 30%. [The council] need to replace eight out of the 30 existing trees, but we will plant 17, which means the road is gaining an extra nine trees.
The situation in Sheffield appears symptomatic of the wider situation among Labour-led local authorities, generally. Many supposedly “democratic socialist” councils are displaying distinctly un-Corbyn-like behaviour – from Birmingham with its treatment of bin workers, to Durham and the ongoing dispute with teaching assistants. And while campaigners would welcome Corbyn’s intervention in Sheffield, the Labour leader needs to address a fundamental problem: that so many of his councils are behaving in a manner more associated with the Tories.
Featured image via YouTube
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