Thursday, 16 December 2010


Sheffield has the highest proportion of students who choose to live in their university city after graduation in the UK.

When asked why they made that decision, they say it’s because Sheffield people are so friendly and then say it’s because Sheffield has all the benefits of a big city, but with easily accessible glorious countryside. It used to be described as ‘Sheffield in its golden frame’.

Of course, in South East Sheffield we have easy access to the big city, but the countryside is on our doorsteps. We are also fortunate in having a large number of groups and volunteers who are committed to maintaining and enhancing the local environment and supporting and protecting local wildlife.

However, not satisfied with launching attacks on students, council services, ordinary working families receiving housing or other benefits, and many more, the coalition government has now decided to wage war on badgers.

There is a long-standing problem with bovine TB in the UK. But, there is a huge amount of contradictory evidence about whether badgers give TB to cattle or cattle give it to badgers.  There is also no scientific evidence that culling badgers actually deals with the problem of TB in cattle; indeed a past trial shows it could actually make it worse. That was why the last Labour Government decided not to cull badgers, but to look for vaccination as a long term solution, as there is considerable scientific evidence that that policy would work

But now the coalition government is proposing that any landowner can apply for a licence to cull badgers. Leading scientists and ecologists have described the proposals as fundamentally scientifically flawed.

Why is this important locally? Well, we have a good badger population spread around the area. Although many – perhaps most – local residents have never seen them, a number of local groups and individuals have been quietly ensuring that their habitat is protected. They are very concerned about these proposals and the potential impact on local wildlife.

I agree with them. I have already made my protest to the government and will continue to do so, as I believe the proposals are just wrong-headed and irresponsible. I hope that no landowner in the area will apply for a licence but, if you hear differently, please let me know.

I suppose the only relief is that, given the new government’s commitment to try to lift the ban on fox-hunting, it hasn’t decided to re-introduce legalised badger-baiting. Or have I spoken too soon?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Betts on Forgemasters

Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] said today

“The All-Party Business Select Committee has delivered a devastating rebuttal of the reasons given by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable for cancelling the Forgemasters’ loan.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable said the former Labour government had pushed through the loan for electoral reasons.

The Select Committee said the loan application had followed all the normal procedures and had been signed off by the Permanent Secretary and the Treasury.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable said the former Labour government has pushed through the loan when there was no money to finance it.

The Select Committee said that former Ministers signed off the loan in the full knowledge that it could be funded.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable said cuts had to be made in the Business budget and, therefore, the Forgemasters’ loan was unaffordable.

The Select Committee said that Ministers had a choice about where the axe would fall, that they had given the go-ahead to other projects where there was no contractual commitment to do so, that no substantial comparative cost-benefit analysis was undertaken on those non-contractually committed projects and that the Sheffield Forgemasters loan was cancelled simply because it was identified as an easy cost saving.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable said the loan was inappropriate because Forgemasters was unwilling to dilute equity.

The Select Committee said that Forgemasters’ board members were willing to dilute equity and that this formed part of the loan agreement.”

Clive Betts continued:
“The All-Party Select Committee has demolished every reason that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable gave for cancelling the Forgemasters’ loan. They should apologise to Forgemasters and to the people of Sheffield.

It is now incumbent upon them to urgently consider a further application from Forgemasters. That would be in the interests of the UK and Sheffield economies.”

Betts says Local Government Financial Settlement is Bad News for Sheffield

Following the Government’s announcement of the Local Government Financial Settlement, Clive Betts MP  and Chair, Communities and Local Government Select Committee said:

“This is bad news for Sheffield. The government published misleading financial information yesterday, when it suggested that the cuts were only some 4% nationally and that Sheffield would be getting an 8% cut in grant.

When assumptions about council tax receipts and the additional money for social care are taken into account, Sheffield has been given a grant cut of 14.54% in 2011/12 and a further 6.44% cut in 2012/13.

This is a settlement which has switched government grant from the North to the South, from poorer communities to wealthy communities, and from urban areas to rural areas.

As Sheffield City Council’s Liberal Democrat Leader has said he would only campaign against the cuts if SCC lost more than 15%, I can only assume he thinks that a 14.54% cut is a good deal for Sheffield. I think the vast majority of people will disagree.

This will undoubtedly have a considerable negative impact on services and jobs in both the public and private sectors in Sheffield.”

Clive Betts continued:

“Even Tony Travers – independent local government finance expert at the London School of Economics, and an adviser to the all-Party Communities and Local Government Select Committee – has been moved to describe the settlement as

‘A Conservative heartlands settlement which it would be difficult to describe as a progressive redistribution of resources.’

The government is planning to move £29bn on 2011 and £27bn in 2012 from urban to rural areas.”