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Sheffield City Council selects new leader

Bob Johnson chosen by fellow Labour councillors to replace the outgoing Julie Dore in January.

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New Council Leader Bob Johnson.

Sheffield Labour Councillors.

Sheffield City Council has a new leader, after Labour councillors selected Cllr Bob Johnson to take over the top job in January.

Johnson has been a councillor in Hillsborough since 2011 – the same year that Cllr Dore became leader after taking control of the Council from the Liberal Democrats.

The leader of the ruling Labour group, and therefore the Council Leader, is elected by Labour councillors rather than Labour members.

It is an unbelievable honour to be elected as leader of the Labour group and I would like to thank my colleagues for putting their trust in me," said Cllr Johnson in a statement.

"I am Sheffield born and bred and am passionate about our city delivering on the huge potential we have."

Cllr Johnson has been Cabinet Member for Transport and Development since last May, leading on projects such as the opening of Division Street to people and the city's first Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Kelham Island.

He won 33 votes from fellow Labour councillors – 24 more than Cllr Lewis Dagnall who resigned from Cabinet in August 2019 to support a campaign to change the way the Council is run.

Dagnall, who is married to Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, is seen as representing a left-wing group of Labour councillors.

In a statement Cllr Johnson paid tribute to his predecessor, who is stepping down as a councillor in May after twenty years at Town Hall.

"I would like to pay tribute to Julie who has led the city through one of the most challenging times in our history, dealing with a decade of austerity and the pandemic over the past year," he said.

In power for close to a decade, Cllr Dore has come under intense criticism in recent years over her handling of the street tree scandal.

Calls by campaigners for an inquiry into the controversy will be one of many political issues the incoming Council Leader will have to deal with over the coming years.

Other challenges include a governance referendum in May, moves to take public control of South Yorkshire's buses, and the radical action needed to meet the city's carbon-neutral target by 2030.

As well as the referendum on governance, a third of councillors (28) are also up for re-election in May after elections were postponed by a year due to the pandemic.

With a majority of 8 councillors, there's a small possibility the Labour group could lose control of the Council with enough of a swing to the Green Party or Lib Dems.

Cllr Johnson said that the next few months were a "crucial time" for Sheffield, as the city struggles with the economic fallout of Covid-19 and welcomes a new Chief Executive in January.

“I am determined that we continue to take decisive action to protect our city through the next stages of this pandemic," he said.

"Whether this be action to work with local businesses and trade unions to protect jobs and livelihoods, whether it be with our schools and young people about the impact that the crisis will have on their futures, whether it be continuing to support our communities in times of hardship and valuing and recognising our carers for everything they have done."

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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