Thursday, 10 February 2011

Scriven is not standing up for Sheffield

Clive Betts MP accused Sheffield Council Leader Paul Scriven of failing to stand up for Sheffield in the national debate about the extent of the cuts being imposed on local councils.

He said: “I cannot remember any previous leader of Sheffield City Council – Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative – being afraid of speaking up for Sheffield, even when this might be an embarrassment for their own political party nationally.

It is now clear that Councillor Scriven has just become an apologist for the Conservative-led coalition.

Further evidence came today when Councillor Scriven’s name was notably absent from the signatories of a letter in The Times by Liberal Democrat council leaders. I know he was approached to sign, but refused.

Whilst the Liberal Democrat council leaders of Newcastle, Hull, Warrington and many others had the guts to tell it like it is and stand up for their communities, Councillor Scriven simply demonstrates his lack of commitment to our city.. I know that a number of Liberal Democrat councillors in Sheffield will be dismayed by his failure to stand up for Sheffield people.”

In the House of Commons debate on the Local Government Finance settlement yesterday (9 February 2010), Clive Betts also accused Councillor Scriven and Nick Clegg MP of simply misleading people about the extent of the impact on jobs and services of the cuts to Sheffield City Council and getting Tory Ministers to support them.

Clive Betts said: “The figures (on job and service losses) on Sheffield are misleading. The figures that have been quoted are for those redundancies that have been announced so far.

Many vacancies in Sheffield are being held unfilled, and they are going to affect services. We know of several hundred posts that will not be filled by one means or other, and we also suspect that the Lib-Dem administration there is trying to delay and avoid decisions, waiting to pass them on to the new Labour administration that will take office in May.

The budget has not yet been finalised, however, so no one can quote a figure of 250. Several hundred jobs are likely to be lost as a result of the budget-many times the figure given today.”

Clive Betts added today: “We are now watching the outcome of an unholy deal where Councillor Scriven doesn’t criticise the Secretary of State for his unfair treatment of the city and the Secretary of State praises a Liberal Democrat Council on the basis of a false analysis.”

Monday, 7 February 2011

Can’t see the wood for the trees

The single biggest recreation activity in the UK is walking. It’s something we enjoy with family and friends. We like being in the countryside. As well as exercise, we can see and smell the changing seasons.

The mass trespasses of Kinder Scout, seventy-five years ago, by walkers from Sheffield, Manchester and other northern towns and cities, highlighted how access to our countryside was being denied. They had a far-reaching impact, some of which is still playing out today. This culminated in the Labour Government’s Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which provided rights to walk on mapped access land – the so-called right to roam.

In addition, huge steps were made in opening up access to our trees and forests. For many communities, it is the woods - publicly-owned by the Forestry Commission – that provide the local opportunities for excellent walks. The Forestry Commission doesn’t just own big forests, like those in Northumberland; it also owns and provides access to woods in just about every part of our local area.

And, of course, it isn’t just walkers who enjoy the woods. So do mountain-bikers and runners, bird-spotters and

But now, the Government has announced plans to sell off the Public Forestry Estate in England threatening the future of over 1,400 woods in the country. Their supposed consultation was only published after they announced the sell-off: it does not contain an option to keep land in public hands or provide details on how environmental stewardship or public access will be funded in future.

Our forests and woodlands are an important part of England’s national heritage. Already, some woods that have been sold have had all public access denied. Gates have been locked shut and paths closed. It’s often only after we lose something that we realise how much we valued it.

The sale of our woods has nothing to do reducing the deficit. After all, they only cost each of us 30p a year to maintain. It’s actually just a total of £15 million a year now and, as the value of timber continues to rise, the cost is likely to reduce to nothing in the near future. It’s all to do with ideology.

If the government can’t see the wood for the trees, let’s hope the people cam open their eyes.