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Now Then 2021 policy survey: in full

We asked the parties putting up candidates across Sheffield for their policy position on a number of ideas that are important to Now Then, ahead of the local election on 6 May. These are the responses we received, across 19 areas.

by Now Then Sheffield
Sheffield city centre from Park Grange Road

Community Wealth Building

Labour: We believe that now more than ever we need to continue pushing council polices which have a social value – including doing everything we can to tackle the climate emergency and make Sheffield carbon neutral. We are determined to put Community Wealth Building polices front and centre of council decisions. This is reflected in our Ethical Procurement Strategy.

Green: We believe in boosting the local economy, not outsourcing the city’s wealth to multinationals. If we pay Sheffield people to do work, they spend it in local shops, which are more likely to use local services and suppliers themselves. That means money staying in the Sheffield economy for longer.

Women's Equality Party (WEP): In theory we support this idea but we would need to see the outcome of a thorough Equalities Impact Assessment to ensure that community wealth was distributed fairly and women benefited.

Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC): TUSC supports many of the ideas behind CWB such as local procurement, but recognises that the policies of big institutions and major employers in Sheffield such as the universities, NHS trusts and indeed the council itself, are increasingly driven by Tory government policy, commercialisation, privatisation and affected by austerity cuts. Therefore CWB cannot be a substitute for councils resisting the Tory government slashing of local authority funding, setting needs budgets, and mobilising local trade union and community support for such a strategy.

City-wide landlord licensing

Labour: We are committed to tough action against rouge landlords – wherever they are in the city. We will look at all housing areas in the city and develop the information base within those areas to determine the best course of action. In principle, where the evidence base exists, we would support a licensing scheme.

Green: We support the principle of landlord licensing because renting is a lifelong housing situation for an increasing number of people, as it is in many European countries. Recognising it is a major undertaking to perform a robust licensing system that is not just an administrative checklist, we would need to roll this out across the city in stages, focusing on the areas of worst housing first. Our budget proposals have called for more staff to help tenants and take enforcement action on substandard rented housing in the private sector.

WEP: There has been a lot of positive feedback from tenants in areas where this has been introduced and good landlords have benefited from the model. We support a city-wide scheme as this drives up standards across the whole city and covers all landlords. Women feel safer and more secure in well-managed homes.

TUSC: TUSC supports city-wide landlord licensing, and also maximum rent caps, set at a level that is really affordable relative to the low average wage in Sheffield. TUSC has endorsed ACORN’s five demands for these council elections.

Governance referendum

Labour: Regardless of the whichever system is implemented, we want to see devolution of decision-making to a more local level and this is why we will enact Local Area Committees.

Green: We have supported a change from the ‘Strong Leader’ model of local government, which has served Sheffield so badly, to a modern committee system where all councillors take part in decision-making.

Women's Equality Party: We support the proposed new Committee Model as it gives more councillors a direct say in how the city is run. A Women’s Equality Party councillor would have more influence under this model, and would be able to ensure that a gendered perspective forms part of the decision-making process.

TUSC: TUSC supports the referendum to change the council governance in favour of a Committee System. This would be slightly more democratic, but unless we elect councillors who are prepared to stand up to senior council officers and in the case of Labour prepared to stand up to their own party leaders, and vote against more cuts in jobs and services, changing the governance model won’t make that much difference to Sheffielders lives.

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Ball Street Bridge, Kelham Island.

Enchufla Con Clave (Wikimedia Commons)

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Labour: We want to make all our neighbourhoods safer, and more breathable places to live. To this aim we are committed to implementing low traffic neighbourhoods. We already have one in place in Kelham Island as part of our Emergency Active Travel Fund, which builds on our Connecting Sheffield proposal for Kelham Island and Neepsend, and will look to roll further areas out across the city.

Green: We have campaigned for low-traffic neighbourhoods after talking to residents for many years, especially in places like Kelham Island, so we are pleased to see these being brought in.

WEP: In theory these can make a positive contribution to a neighbourhood, as less traffic makes streets safer for children and has a positive impact on health, by reducing emissions and encouraging walking and cycling for shorter journeys. However, they can only succeed when the people living in the neighbourhood have been fully consulted and this needs to be coupled with a full safety audit to make sure women and girls feel safe on the streets.

TUSC: TUSC is generally in favour of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods but any such schemes must only be implemented with the agreement of local communities.

Workplace Parking Levy

Labour: Given some of the emerging pressures on the tram network, the need for considerable investment, and the need to support a shift to more sustainable modes of travel, we are looking at many different actions and a WPL is part of these discussions. However we cannot have a WPL until we a fit-for-purpose public transport alternative.

Green: We have been calling for the council to start work on developing a Workplace Parking Levy for several years. We have included funding in our budget proposals and Green councillors organised a site visit to Nottingham to see where it has been successful.

WEP: We currently don’t have a policy on WPL. Although a scheme such as this can bring some benefit, any levy that is placed on people, when we have a situation where women earn 20% less than men do, will always have a more negative impact on women. However, in other areas it has proved to be an effective method of reducing traffic, improving air quality and encouraging people to use public transport, and could be coupled with increasing parking spaces for parents and people with disabilities, as well as increasingly replacing non-reserved parking spaces with bicycle parking.

TUSC: The Nottingham WPL scheme seems to be successful but TUSC would have to look into it more. In general, TUSC would oppose trying to change behaviour by penalising ordinary working class commuters, certainly in advance of a significant improvement in public transport services. The WPL appears to be a levy on employers providing free parking, TUSC would oppose any such charges being passed on to staff users. The scandal of staff hospital parking charges highlights the issue.

Race Equality Commission, and reducing systemic inequality in Sheffield

Labour: We believe that Sheffield is an inclusive and welcoming city but following the recent Public Health England Health Report into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities and other reports on racial disparities and racism we also understand BAME communities in Sheffield experience pronounced inequality and are under significant pressure. To investigate this further, we set-up a commission to examine the causes of this and find solutions. A report for publication will be completed soon. Interim recommendations will be made throughout the year. This will enable the Commission to deliver immediate impact and the city to take action on the critical issues it identifies.

Green: We believe it is wrong that people have different life chances in Sheffield and are disadvantaged because of their race. As long as this continues it needs to be addressed. Greens have been part of Sheffield’s Race Equality Commission.

WEP: We welcome the Race Equality Commission in Sheffield and look forward to its report on racial disparity. We expect the Council to address how issues identified affect men and women differently and provide solutions.

TUSC: TUSC supports any such commission or initiative that can not only highlight but lead to measures than can reduce racism and discrimination within institutions and communities in Sheffield. However, we recognise that racism is systemic, and that system is capitalism which was born out of racism and relies on divide and rule policies. TUSC fights for policies that benefit and unite all working class people in the struggle to overthrow capitalism, racism and all prejudices and discrimination.

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Element5 Digital (Unsplash)

Proportional Representation at local elections

Labour: Councils don’t have the authority to set the electoral voting system. Labour councillors do not have a stated position on it, as it is not something they can alter.

Green: The Green Party strongly supports proportional representation at all levels of government.

WEP: WE are in favour of Proportional Representation in local elections to allow a far broader range of opinions to be voiced.

TUSC: TUSC support the introduction of PR at local and national elections as a means to break the two establishment parties system, give people more real choice at the ballot box, and would allow TUSC to gain public representation to provide a platform for anti-austerity and socialist policies.

Bringing council services in-house and including social value in procurement processes

Labour: In recent years we have brought back ‘in-house’: housing repairs, Youth Services, IT and Digital services, cleaning services, Human Resources and payroll services, set up an in-house out-of-hours customer services telephone line. We believe in public services delivered by public servants.

Green: Sheffield Greens have long opposed privatisation of public services: notably, Greens were the only political group to oppose the massive contract given to Amey in 2012, when it was supported by both Labour and Lib Dems.

WEP: We generally support the insourcing of council services as we believe this makes them far more responsive to the needs of the people of Sheffield. We asked the Council in 2018 to introduce questions on social value into the procurement process as not everything can be reduced to a monetary value.

TUSC: TUSC has always opposed all privatisation, and outsourcing of council and all public services. Therefore we do demand the bringing back in house of all outsourced services. TUSC believes that all major industries and services should be publicly owned under democratic workers control and management as part of a socialist planned economy.

'Affordable' housing and council housing

Labour: We are committed to everyone having an affordable place to call home. With safe streets, connected communities – this is our vision for Sheffield. We are committed to ensuring the best possible council housing:, and have made the following manifesto commitments. 3,100 new council houses will be built by 2028, upgrades to council homes, £2 million extra into housing repairs.

Green: We agree with the need for more housing but it must be good housing. Our “Green View” planning vision calls for housing that is fit to live – and work – in. New housing should be high quality with good insulation so they are far cheaper to run. We have also campaigned on developers trying to get out of “affordable housing” contributions.

WEP: Women, especially black women, minoritised women and women with disabilities or chronic illness, are amongst the lowest paid and on insecure incomes. We need much more affordable and council housing across the city and especially in high value areas such as Ecclesall where women and families can easily find themselves priced out of properties. It is vital that they are able to live in areas where they have support networks to enable childcare, care for the elderly and for those with disabilities. We also support the need for older persons housing and will identify SCC-owned land to develop community housing that is affordable to buy or rent in perpetuity for older people, especially women.

TUSC: TUSC calls for a mass council house building programme in Sheffield and nationally. The legal restrictions to councils building houses has been removed. Sheffield Council can borrow against its Housing Revenue account (council properties and rents) to fund new build. The Labour council is promising 3,100 new houses over the next 10 years but there are 40,000 on the council house waiting list, one third classed as urgent. At this rate it will take 50 years to house the existing urgent cases. A mass council house programme is needed which will create jobs and apprenticeships.

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Harrison Qi (Unsplash)

Bus regulation in South Yorkshire

Labour: The Council does not have direct control over bus regulation in the city, but we have consistently called on Sheffield City Region to provide more local powers, including franchising powers. We believe Greater Manchester’s recent commitment to franchising is a major shot in the arm for reform, and that the city needs a structure that builds the service we need.

Green: Greens have encouraged and supported better control over buses for over a decade, as the negative impacts of privatisation on fares and services become clear. Many people rely on buses to get to and from their jobs and local authorities need to be in control of services and routes. Good, affordable bus services can drive the increased passenger numbers that reduce cars on the road, traffic jams and dangerous air pollution. We called for “quality contracts” (the then term for council control) rather than Labour’s preference of voluntary agreements with the bus companies.

WEP: Any changes to the transport system must primarily consider the needs of the user. WE will commission an audit of women’s travel patterns and employment opportunities in the area to make recommendations on how changes to routes would increase opportunities for women. In addition, bus companies must be encouraged to increase the space for wheelchairs and buggies, so that wheelchair users and parents don’t have to compete for space.

TUSC: TUSC has campaigned over many years for regulation of South Yorkshire buses as a step towards a return to public ownership of the bus industry, and along with permanent re-nationalisation of the railways, so as to plan a truly integrated public transport system.

Reducing the ‘digital divide’ for Sheffield households without internet access

Labour: Digital Exclusion should not be acceptable. If re-elected, we will update the council’s Digital Exclusion strategy to make it as robust as possible. To combat digital exclusion during the Pandemic we provide thousands of laptops to support children who were having to home school during lockdown. Government have failed to put the right support in place - so we acted. Working in partnership with the Laptops for Kids campaign 6,000 laptops were provided to ensure every child in Sheffield can access learning - and connectivity will be funded for those without access at home. The investment into this project will be around £1.5 million.

Green: We recognise that digital communication can widen the divide between the affluent and the poor. In particular, we campaigned for more action to help schoolchildren, not just with laptops but also internet connections during the lockdown.

WEP: The need for much better internet access across the whole city has been thrown into stark relief by COVID. WE would work with marginalised communities, the poorest and most vulnerable, who are so often women, to overcome the inequality that the digital divide creates.

TUSC: TUSC supports Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto pledge for free broadband delivery for all. Covid lockdown has shown what a correct policy that was.

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Sheffield

Labour: The pandemic delayed the implementation of the CAZ. We are fully committed to clean air in Sheffield and are finalising discussions around current data and support package funding with governments, following a post-Covid review. The aim being to ensure we actually achieve meaningful real term reductions (given the proven risk to health) in the shortest possible time, rather than people paying to pollute, which has to be the ultimate aim.

Green: Air pollution contributes to 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield and we have campaigned on air pollution for many years. Petrol and Diesel engines are major contributors to harmful air pollution so we support a clean air zone around the city centre which is the most heavily polluted part of Sheffield. We said the public consultation was a missed opportunity for meaningful change as it did not even ask about charging private cars.

WEP: Cleaner air has major impacts on health, especially of children. While we support the principle we would need to see the detail of the policy.

TUSC: Obviously TUSC supports clean air but TUSC does not think a Clean Air Zone based on financially penalising vehicle drivers before there is a massive improvement in public transport in Sheffield is the best way of achieving that. It is likely to result in increased charges to ordinary people who will blame the CAZ policy, making it harder to persuade people to voluntarily change their travel and commuting habits.

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La Victorie (Unsplash)

Reaching Sheffield's 2030 net-zero carbon deadline

Labour: Labour councillors declared a Climate Emergency and committed Sheffield to reducing it carbon neutral target from 2050 to a 2030. To this aim we have made the following spending commitments: Anti-Fracking - Labour councillors made Sheffield the first local authority in the country to ban fracking applications on council owned land. Renewable Energy - The Council now purchases electricity generated from 100% renewable sources - this is an increase of 81% Established Energy Surgeries and installed Smart Energy Meters for Council tenants – creating up to 40% saving for tenants as well as a substantial reduction in wasted energy Flood Protection - Invested over £22 million to keep the city safe from flooding

Green: The Green councillors called for the city to be zero-carbon by 2030, backed up with a call for officers to report back within six months from February 2019 on the actions the Council needs to take. Labour agreed to our call but has taken almost no action.

WEP: Responding to the climate emergency underpins all WEP policies. We would audit all proposals to ensure there is a positive impact on women and those on low incomes.

TUSC: TUSC supports that deadline but believes it can only be achieved by a radical transformation of how the city is run. Here are the demands that TUSC petitioned Sheffield Council to implement to help reach that goal:

  • Use existing council and mayoral powers to regulate bus services and campaign for a Labour government to bring the public transport industry into public ownership.
  • Abandon the £4.6 million ring road widening scheme and invest in public transport instead.
  • Axe Amey, not trees – scrap the Streets Ahead Private Finance Initiative deal.
  • Bring recycling and waste management services back in-house.
  • All council buildings to transition to renewable energy, and in consultation with staff through their trade unions monitor and bring down agreed energy and water usage.

HS2

Labour: We support a station in Sheffield for HS2 and believe this must be connected to the wider Northern Powerhouse Rail (HS3) connections. To tackle air pollution the Midland Mainline must be electrified and we are challenging government to do so, after they scandalously U-turned on this previous commitment.

Green: We think the huge amount of money required to provide a partial HS2 service for Sheffield would be better spent on upgrading and electrifying existing local routes, which are currently dismal, plus reopening existing railway lines to Stocksbridge and stations at Heeley, Millhouses and Totley Brook.

WEP: We have no current policy on this.

TUSC: TUSC opposes the HS2 project as environmentally damaging and financially unviable. TUSC believes that the railways should be brought back into public ownership and run democratically by railworkers and the travelling public. Public investment is needed to expand and upgrade travelling stock and services. Not a penny more should go to the private operating companies!

Independent street tree inquiry

Labour: We have apologies for the previous failings and have held our hands up – we repeat, we got it wrong and apologise. There has already been an investigations by the ombudsman. The council accepted the report and identified 10 specific lessons learned and 14 actions. We have also committed to the archive project. We are pleased that there has been no protest in recent years and that there is a city-wide agreed strategy for maintaining the city’s street trees.

Green: We continue to call for an independent inquiry into the council and policies handling of the street trees fiasco, after Cllr Alison Teal and many other campaigners were arrested and threatened with imprisonment by the council itself, for standing up against the tree-felling programme. We repeatedly called out untruths and the Local Government Ombudsman found there had been a lack of transparency, openness and honesty.

WEP: We support the independent street tree inquiry as we need to understand how the council’s approach led to the waste of £400,000 of taxpayers money taking people to court as well as covering other costs. We would have worked collaboratively with residents and local groups about the best approach to their trees. The Labour council’s approach illustrates why power needs to be devolved to a wider number of councillors across the political spectrum.

TUSC: TUSC supports such an inquiry. We believe that it should examine the collusion between the council, Amey and South Yorkshire Police in the harassment, arrest and prosecution of tree campaigners (who were proved right that the tree felling programme was unnecessary), especially the use by a ‘Labour’ council of Tory anti-trade union laws! And should look into how the Amey PFI contract was drawn up by the Lib Dems then signed and defended by Labour, and how it can be scrapped and highways and street lighting brought back in-house.

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Hawksley Avenue, Hillsborough.

Kelly Dorset.

Piloting Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Sheffield

Labour: We committed the Council in June 2019 to supporting a pilot of UBI in Sheffield. The national Labour followed this up with a commitment that a Labour government would look to pilot UBI in selected areas, and Sheffield would be one of the cities. The cost of any future Sheffield pilot would be met entirely by an external funder, and not by Sheffield City Council.

Green: We strongly support a UBI pilot in Sheffield. UBI helps to reduce crime, while improving health outcomes and wellbeing and has been a long-term Green policy commitment.

WEP: WE support a UBI pilot or a Minimum Income Guarantee in Sheffield. The Covid crisis has only served to underline the inequalities already prevalent in our society, and even with government support in the crisis reaching many, many more people have been unable to make ends meet. Having a UBI or Minimum Income Guarantee in place would be a safety net for everyone. We would particularly want to capture its impact on women, Black women and women of colour.

TUSC: TUSC has always advocated a much higher minimum living wage, currently arguing for £12 an hour as a step towards £15 an hour, and that there should be a minimum income linked to that, that people really can afford to live on. Whether that’s called UBI, minimum income guaranteed, whatever, but the key issue is whether it really will be at a level that people can comfortably live on.

Deliberative or participatory democracy in Sheffield

Labour: We have committed to a Citizens’ Assembly to discuss how the city can best tackle the climate emergency and reach carbon net zero. This has been delayed due to the pandemic. Sheffield City Council undertakes wide public consultation, and we will always ensure that this is done properly and with the required breadth.

Green: We believe in making decisions at the most local level possible. We also believe in genuine consultation because the people of Sheffield have lots of good ideas that deserve to be taken into account.

WEP: There is merit to both of these decision-making processes and we will convene citizen’s assemblies to scrutinise major spending and policy decisions, including the Council’s budget. Had citizen’s assemblies been in place during the pandemic, then there would have been a wider discussion around social care, childcare, and other vital services where the responsibility for plugging the gaps fell overwhelmingly to women and rates of domestic abuse soared. This election is an opportunity to make sure our councillors listen to women’s voices and understand the importance of investing in care and communities for our recovery.

TUSC: Labour will say that they are proposing such with their proposed community forums with mini budgets, but it is nothing of the kind. Real participatory democracy would bring together elected and recallable representatives from workplaces, education institutions, local communities and neighbourhoods, trade unions and tenant associations, to decide on what’s needed in the city and how to achieve it. If that isn’t linked to a fight for more funding and resources, then any such participatory democracy would be a sham, arguing over limited or declining resources.

Real Living Wage for all council employees and everyone working on council contracts

Labour: All Council employees are paid the Real Living Wage. We want all council contactors to also be paid the ELW, and our ethical procurement strategy will help us deliver this.

Green: Green councillors were the first to propose a living wage for all council staff, way back in 2008. We were pleased it has been adopted subsequently but still want it to be extended to all council contractors.

WEP: In 2018 WE analysed the gender pay gap in Sheffield. Many women were only on the minimum wage which is not sufficient to live on. WE called on the council to introduce a real living wage and we have also challenged them on their gender pay gap and the gender pay gap of their contractors. In relation to council employees, WE will make all Council workers’ individual remunerations visible to all within the organisation, including temporary, part-time, contracted and consultant workers.

TUSC: TUSC has always advocated a much higher minimum living wage, currently arguing for £12 an hour as a step towards £15 an hour. And argued within the trade unions that they must coordinate ballots and industrial action to fight for that, starting with a 10% pay claim for all council workers to smash the Tory government’s public sector pay freeze.

Heritage, planning and city centre vision

Labour: Our business density is historically low compared to other major cities and while new start-ups in Sheffield tend to be successful, there aren’t enough of them. If there is to be a legacy from this pandemic it should be more start-ups and scale ups in this new environment, taking every opportunity to build further resilience into our economy. On heritage, we're supporting this approach.

Green: We strongly support keeping irreplaceable heritage, for its own sake and also because demolishing and rebuilding is incredibly costly in carbon and energy usage. The Devonshire Street shops and the Old Coroner’s Court are perfect examples of where the Labour Administration failed to preserve a unique piece of the city’s heritage. We have published our “Green View” setting out a vision for how the city centre should develop. We support the Joined Up Heritage Sheffield plan for a heritage strategy for the city.

WEP: We support the development of policies around these topics. It is important that Sheffield values its heritage and has a planning regime which takes into account the needs of all residents, and ensures affordable housing, accessibility to all areas and buildings for people with disabilities and where everyone, especially women and girls, feel safe and free from sexual harassment.

TUSC: TUSC supports preservation of the city’s heritage, especially working class history and struggles. And of course a regeneration of the city centre, but again that will only be possible if the council reverses its policy of chasing the private sector and dependence on business rates, the folly of which has been revealed by the Chinese investment that wasn’t and the announcement of the John Lewis store closure. As with most of the above issues, will the council continue to be a transmission belt for Tory central government policies or will it really represent the interests of local people by leading the resistance to austerity, privatisation and cuts?

Learn more

Find out who the councillor candidates are in your area and what they stand for using Who Is My Councillor.

by Now Then Sheffield

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