Tag Archives: Sheffield

Sheffield tree fiasco highlights everything that is bad about contracted-out services

A ‘save me’ sign on tree cut down in Rustlings Road, Sheffield [Image: Danny Lawson/PA].

A ‘save me’ sign on tree cut down in Rustlings Road, Sheffield [Image: Danny Lawson/PA].


No, Nick Clegg, the fight for Sheffield’s trees is not like “something you’d expect to see in Putin’s Russia” – unless you’ve been to Russia recently and know something we don’t.

TV viewers who watched the documentary Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions will know that Sheffield’s Labour-run council has contracted private firm Amey to maintain the city’s roads.

Apparently, Amey promised the contract would “see Sheffield’s roads transformed from some of the worst in the country to the best in the country within the first five years”.

But protesters say this is a front for a plan to chop down as many trees as possible, in order to spend most of the 25-year contract period with much lower maintenance bills than if they had been left in place.

They say the trees are invaluable flood defences and are vital in countering air pollution – but that hasn’t stopped Amey from felling 4,000 trees since the contract was signed, working without proper consultation and motivated by profit.

The council says many of the trees are diseased and that their roots have ruined pavements, making them impassible for wheelchair users and buggies.

For shifty councillors, the joy of a contract with a private company is they never have to divulge the details to members of the public who submit Freedom of Information requests.

But the tactic can backfire. Members of the city’s Labour Party are deserting it in big numbers, quoting the attack on the city’s trees and the council’s devotion to its contract with a company out to profit from it as the reason.

Labour will suffer serious damage in Sheffield if its councillors are allowed to press on with this debacle.

It doesn’t just reflect badly on them; it reflects on the Labour Party as a whole.

What are they thinking?

And now UKIP has a new leader whose stated aim is to invade Labour heartlands, this Labour council is offering Paul Nuttall a ripe and juicy target.

Of course, Nuttall and his party are nothing but a gang of single-issue sub-fascists who are lucky enough to have been able to attract the attention of the BBC and a few other gullible news providers/right-wing media moguls. They won’t win anywhere.

But why erode confidence in Labour when there are possible threats around?

The attitude of Sheffield’s Labour councillors is utterly unfathomable.

Perhaps they need a telephone call from national Labour leaders, to remind them that they owe loyalty to the people – not profit.

Council contractors and police had descended on a particularly desirable street … under the cover of darkness, “dragged” people out of bed to move their cars and detained peaceful protesters – “all to chop down eight trees”, he wrote in a local paper.

So far five people have been arrested in relation to a long-running and increasingly bitter battle over the fate of Sheffield’s trees, including a 70-year old emeritus professor and a 71-year-old retired teacher, both women. On Thursday two men will become the first of the city’s tree protesters to appear in court, charged under trade union legislation, following a protest on 2 November.

One of them, the author and university lecturer Simon Crump, 56, a local Green party member, said he was arrested for protecting a 100-year-old London plane tree on Marden Road in Nether Edge. He said he was locked in a cell for eight hours and that he would have been released sooner but, he claimed, officers could not find the offence he had allegedly committed on the police computer. “It was quite Kafkaesque. I was being imprisoned because they couldn’t work out what to charge me with,” said Crump.

He was subsequently charged under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which criminalises anyone who persistently stops someone from carrying out lawful work – in this case tree surgeons contracted by Amey, an outsourcing company, to chop down trees under a controversial contract with the city council.

Source: Sheffield trees dispute prompts ‘scenes you’d expect in Putin’s Russia’ | UK news | The Guardian

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Police state Britain: Pensioner mobbed by police and reporter threatened with arrest as a terrorist

http://youtu.be/Z8nsBdE75ac

The gentleman being forced to the ground by no less than five British Transport police in the video above is a 65-year-old pensioner named Tony Nuttall, who had been attending a peaceful protest against cuts to travel passes when the incident took place.

At the same protest, against cuts to free travel provision for pensioners and disabled people, Sheffield Star reporter Alex Evans was warned to stop filming the events and erase all his footage – including potentially important video evidence of the violence, because he did not have permission to film in the station as it is private property.

When he resisted the request, he was told he could be arrested under anti-terrorism laws.

James Mitchinson, editor of the Star, told The Guardian: “To cite anti-terror laws is clearly nonsense.

“But this case illustrates just how difficult it can be to report the news, on the spot when, increasingly, authorities are seeking to ‘manage’ it.

“This wasn’t a PR stunt; it was an extraordinary event that couldn’t have been predicted and it was very much in the public interest that people were made aware of what was going on.

George Arthur, aged 64, and Tony Nuttall, 65, have been charged with failure to pay and obstructing police.

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Hillsborough: Where sorry simply isn’t good enough

A mocked-up front page of The Sun, created to show how it should look on September 13, 2012: David Duckenfield was Chief Superintendent in charge of policing at Hillsborough; Margaret Thatcher refused to release information about the Hillsborough disaster that made the police look bad; Kelvin McKenzie’s “The Truth” headline in The Sun was a pack of lies that led to the wholesale boycotting of the tabloid by people in Liverpool.

It has become one of the defining moments in recent history – one of those moments that you find enshrined in a question:

Where were you when Elvis died?

Where were you when the Wall* came down?

Where were you when you heard about Hillsborough?

I was on the sofa in my parents’ house in Bristol, reading a magazine (it was probably Interzone or Starburst – my 19-year-old self was heavily into escapist fiction at the time) when the words of the news report on TV started filtering through my perceptions. Dozens killed in football stadium tragedy. Hundreds more injured. There were images quite clearly showing fans being crushed against each other; trying to escape; being lifted to safety by other fans; but I also have a recollection of fans trying to climb fencing but being forced back by police. Is my memory cheating?

April 15, 1989. The deadliest football disaster in British history. It killed 94 people on the day and a further two died in hospital, bringing the total death toll to 96. The number of injured totalled 766.

The match was a semi-final FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, being played at the neutral Hillsborough ground in Sheffield and overseen by South Yorkshire Police. This force chose to place Liverpool fans – the largest group – in the smaller end of the stadium. It became visibly overcrowded before kick-off, so police ordered a large exit gate to be opened, allowing supporters to enter straight down a tunnel leading to two pens. This caused crushing. Moments after kick-off, a crush barrier forced fans to fall on top of each other. (This information courtesy of Wikipedia)

Who got the blame? The fans.

Four days after the disaster, The Sun newspaper headlined a story about Hillsborough “THE TRUTH”, following it with three sub-headlines: “Some fans picked pockets of victims”, “Some fans urinated on the brave cops” and “Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life”. The story, using words attributed to unnamed police officers and Irvine Patnick, then-MP for Sheffield Hallam, made allegations which contradicted the reported behaviour of the Liverpool fans, who in fact helped security personnel stretcher away victims and also gave on-site first aid. It was described in Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie’s history of The Sun as “a classic smear”.

The story seriously backfired against the newspaper. My understanding is that Liverpool has, as though it were a single entity, boycotted the newspaper ever since.

It took a further 23 years for the real truth to come out, and we had it from the Hillsborough Independent Panel today:

  • Serious mistakes in the policing of the match.
  • Falsehoods in the post-mortem reports.
  • An attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised to relatives of the deceased for what he described as a double injustice: The “failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”; and the efforts to denigrate the deceased and suggest that they were “somehow at fault for their own deaths”.

South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton also offered “profound apologies”. He added: “When police lost control, lies were told about how that happened.”

Kelvin McKenzie, the editor who ran the piece in The Sun, stated that he regretted doing so in 1993 but later retracted the statement and has remained unrepentant since. The Sun apologised “without reservation” for its smear piece in July 2004, more than 15 years after the original article.

Are these apologies enough? No. I agree with the fans who are still angry because of one simple fact:

Nobody has been brought to justice.

The football website Transfer Tavern put it this way: “The apology [from Mr Cameron] is undoubtedly sincere but what is as important [is] that those who were involved directly and indirectly in the process of corrupting this tragedy are brought to justice.

“Not just those who lost relatives, but society in general needs to search out those who not only falsified evidence but deliberately ignored it in order to suffocate the truth. The excuses will undoubtedly be wheeled out by those soon hopefully to be cornered, but a crime is a crime.

The Sun newspaper in particular is worth a mention here… In light of the announcement today… it is surely time now for The Sun to go… The choice must be removed.

The Sun passed off untruths to a huge readership and they need to answer for the damage they did.”

The truth – the real truth – has finally been revealed, but for the families of the Hillsborough victims, the wait for justice must continue.

*The Berlin Wall.