Firth Park by-election
- further ill omens for Labour
The Firth Park by-election is further evidence of the likely loss of Labour’s control of Sheffield City Council - and this is more than just about yet another appalling turnout (just 19% of the electorate voted).
The wafer-thin majority for a Labour hold of just 41 from the Lib Dems compares to a Labour majority of 1,086 only last May on a turnout only slightly better at 23.46%.
The Labour Group’s alliance with the Greens to maintain control of the Council now seems to have set the Lib Dems up to make gains at the next local election with the inevitable “a vote for the Greens is a vote for Labour” as their slogan.
The Greens vote was halved while the Lib Dems vote rose from 153 in May to 1,050 in the by election.
Whichever way you analyse this result, it signals that Labour’s fingertip hold on the city will likely break next time.
But the Labour Group continues to refuse to believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is in fact an express train driven by the Lib Dems.
While the Labour leadership involves itself in public disagreements with its Green partners about pedestrianizing the city centre, Sheffield is in steady decline.
Tory austerity is continuing with more cuts forecast for local councils as even Conservative local government leaders bemoan the lack of proper financial support from their own party.
A hollowed-out city centre along with the continuing struggles for Meadowhall to attract new tenants for empty units speak of a long-term retail crisis. The Council is warning that this will have a devastating impact on the Council’s income from business rates.
The Labour Group’s latest financial update makes sobering reading identifying a £44m Covid related overspend this year with more than £30m of that accounted for in Social Services.
Homelessness and poverty continue to rise with the uplift on Universal Credit about to be removed.
So where is the Labour Group plan to save the city from further catastrophe?
Volunteers are already being sought for redundancy from the Council’s workforce and the question to be asked is where will this end?
Where is a political response to this crisis uniting the people of the city against this Tory Government? An electoral turnout of just 19% makes it look like that task is beyond the Labour Group.
As the right continues to pursue its vendetta on anyone who voted for Corbyn, the city – not to mention society at large – is crying out for political leadership in opposition. Unfortunately, opposition is likely to be the home for Labour in Sheffield soon.