Nick Clegg attacks Labour council over Don Valley stadium closure

Sheffield’s Labour council have been criticised by Nick Clegg over their decision to close the Don Valley Stadium where Olympic heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill trained.

From the Sheffield Star:

I’m hugely disappointed that Labour councillors have decided Don Valley Stadium is not an asset of community value.

This short-sighted decision has denied the Save Don Valley Stadium group access to central Government grants, which would have helped them develop a business plan and move closer to their vision of running the venue at no cost to the public.

Instead of working with the community to protect facilities, we have a council determined to close services because they think they can blame it on someone else.

What makes the situation even more unpalatable is that local taxpayers are still paying off the debt from when the stadium was built for the 1991 World Student Games, costing £25m a year.

Labour are keen to blame the Coalition for the cuts, but they are responsible for their own budgets. The same Star site has a story about the amount of public money they have poured into a private housing development and Liberal Democrat councillors are trying to stop more money being spent this way.

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  • Labour financial mismanagement non-shocker

  • Has government policy resulted in less funding available for Sheffield Council?

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Oct '13 - 3:21pm

    I think it’s worse than mismanagement. There is growing evidence that Labour Councils are deliberately closing high-profile facilities locally in orer to make political capital. Wereally do need to turn it back on them with a vengeance.

    That is not to say that government policy towards local councils is not quite wrong, particualrly in the north of England.

    Of course – it may be that the Labour leadership in Sheffield just do as they are told by their officials. That would not be the first time!


  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 3:57pm

    Given that LibDems seem to support a policy of transferring power back from national to local government wherever possible, what is the etiquette as regards a national politician criticising the decisions of local politicians?

    Obviously one cannot forbid such criticism since even a national politician is also an ordinary citizen, but doesn’t such criticism, done as a DPM instead of an ordinary citizen, actually contradict the policy?

  • @Richard Dean
    I think it is fair to criticise what local authorities do, and to begin a debate with the hope it may influence the outcome of future decisions or elections.

    He is not telling them they do not have the right to decide spending priorities, or threatening to take such rights into central government control. To me this is a local MP taking issue with a Local Authority and therefore entirely appropriate.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 4:48pm

    @Simon Shaw
    Yes. He is also DPM, and citizen. In what capacity is he making his criticism?

    @Steve Way
    Sure, but there are presumably limits? Criticism from a DPM can carry a lot more force than from a local MP; that may not be fair but it’s real life.

  • Richard Shaw 2nd Oct '13 - 5:37pm

    @ Richard Dean

    Nick is perfectly within his rights as both a local MP and DPM to criticise them. However, the Labour councillors will care no more about Nick’s protestations, DPM or not, than they do those of the ordinary residents of Sheffield and will carry on regardless with their mismanagement of our city’s finances and community assets. This includes their plan to close 16 libraries out of 27 across the city, which will ‘coincidentally’ leave Nick’s constituency with only a single library remaining open.

  • Tubby Isaacs 2nd Oct '13 - 5:50pm

    One library for Clegg’s constituency?

    Close that down, as well. They can buy on ebay. So your old mate tells us.

  • @ Richard Dean
    Unless we move to a separation of executive and MP’s then Ministers always have a split role. Personally I have no problem with him criticising this as either local MP or DPM. You don’t have to agree with the decisions taken locally to believe that they are being taken at the right level. Likewise you should not be restricted from discussing local issues because you hold a cabinet position..

  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 5:54pm

    @Richard Shaw
    Imagine you are my son. You’re keen to have a girlfriend and I’ve been telling you for ages and ages that she’s go to be this and she mustn’t be that. Suddenly, you’re 18, and I say “ok, you’re old enough to make your own decisions now”. Next day I see you with a buxom blonde who I strongly disapprove of, and I start telling you again who you should be going out with and who you should not, and I’m saying that I’m re-thinking that promise I made for your 21st birthday unless you shape up. Have I truly passed the power of decision-making from me to you?

  • “Has government policy resulted in less funding available for Sheffield Council?”

    Yes. There remains a problem in Sheffield with funding. For instance the Museums Sheffield has had to severely cut back what is offered at the Graves and Millenium Galleries and Weston Park Museum due to the disproportionally large funding cuts back in 2011. It’s worth pointing out that Don Valley Stadium has been hemorrhaging cash for years, even the Lib Dems failed to find a sustainable future for it over the years the council was held.

  • “There is growing evidence that Labour Councils are deliberately closing high-profile facilities locally in orer to make political capital. Wereally do need to turn it back on them with a vengeance.”

    My local council’s controllable spending has been reduced by 39% in 3 years, with more to come. Just happens to be a Labour run council, but I guess that’s just coincidence. What’s not a coincidence is that the local Tories and LibDems always line up together to criticise the Labour council for cutting services without acknowledging that it’s the Tories and LibDems in central government that are foisting these cuts on them.

    I can only assume that you’d approve of that rather than criticising your own government for bringing this situation about.

  • Richard Shaw 2nd Oct '13 - 6:53pm

    @ Si Carter

    Yes, central funding might have been cut but it’s the council’s responsibility to make the most of what’s left, rather than wasting money on office makeovers over keeping open libraries.

  • “Yes, central funding might have been cut but it’s the council’s responsibility to make the most of what’s left, rather than wasting money on office makeovers over keeping open libraries.”

    Well, I’ve not heard of my local council doing that, so unless you can show otherwise, your post is simply ‘whataboutery?’ unleavened by any acknowledgement that it’s the LibDems and Tories that have cut the funding and forced things upon councils – particularly northern ones – that they would otherwise never consider.

    Any comment on losing 39% of controllable spend (with more yet to come) and having to keep services running? Think it’s easy?

  • Mr Clegg represents only one of the five Sheffield constituencies.

    My city is being decimated because of government cuts – to the city council, to the Sheffield City Region through the clawing in of designated EU funding for the area to DCLG, and to councils in the surrounding areas within the city region. All councils – whichever party is in control – are reeling from the central government cuts and will soon only be able to provide statutory services. Sir Merrick Cockell, Chair of the Local Government Association and a Conservative politician, has pointed out the dire straits that councils are in several times. This is not just about Sheffield or indeed Labour councils: it is an issue for all councils.

    I haven’t heard Mr Clegg voice any opposition to this.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 9:57pm

    @Simon Star.
    Thanks for your link.

    I believe that Nick did not have the right to criticise a lawful local decision in his role as DPM – that national role surely permits him only to criticise a procedure by which a local decision is arrived at, rather than the decision itself? Any other approach would seem to me to be a national politician attempting to take lawful local power away from a local one. Or does the funding history for the stadium make it a national decision?

    A local MP’s role is surely to represent constituents nationally? In practice I know that citizens expect their MPs to wade into everything, and I’d do so myself if I was an MP, but in theory the role of MP surely doesn’t give any special authority as regards decisions of an elected local body, other than the role of local citizen? Of course, how a newspaper hypes it is not necessarily accurate as regards roles and responsibilities!

  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 9:58pm

    Star – Shaw. Apologies! An editor might be helpful!

  • Richard Shaw 2nd Oct '13 - 11:57pm

    @ Si Carter

    I thought that from the context it was quite plain I was talking about Sheffield City Council (i.e. the one Nick was criticising) and not whatever your local authority happens to be.

  • As Dennis points out, the coalition have slashed funding to local government, with no obvious protests from the DPM. Councils in northern cities (which, coincidentally, tend to be Labour-run) have come off worst. Mr Pickles’ only response is to chunter on about shared services, which many councils are already doing. The Conservative-controlled LGA has warned we are coming to the point when core services will be axed completely and some councils will be unable to meet even their statutory responsibilities.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of closing the Don Valley Stadium, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Do the LibDems have a policy for local government and, if so, what is it and how does it differ from Mr Pickles’ model?

  • The worst form of local politics – causing deliberate public pain to make political capital off opponents. Politicians (pf any party) are there to serve. Labour councillors in Sheffield should be ashamed and called to account.

  • Kevin Maher 3rd Oct '13 - 9:04am

    I bet Nick Clegg didn’t say which council services he would cut back (even further) to enable the Don Valley Stadium to remain open.

  • There is definitely more to this. Whilst the council are intending to demolish the Don Valley stadium, they are also intending to refurbish the neighbouring Woodbourn Road stadium and so maintain some reasonable level of athletics facilities, which they hope the (Sheffield) university will take on the running.

    I suspect the council is hoping that the redevelopment of the site will make a significant contribution to paying off the outstanding debit on the Dom Valley stadium.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Oct '13 - 1:52pm

    It strikes me that if central government wants local government to make the best cuts in expenditure, then the reduction in budgets needs to be planned in advance and implemented over time. The emphasis over the last few years seems to have been haste, and local authorities are having to make the quickest cuts that they can. Such a short-term approach is bound to lead to decisions which in the long-term are damaging.

  • Julian Tisi 3rd Oct '13 - 2:47pm

    I always remember that a few years ago – when we controlled Sheffield council – we made an interesting comparison between Lib-Dem controlled Sheffield and Labour controlled Manchester. The two cities are of a similar size and both had suffered similar central government cuts in their funding. In response, the Lib Dem council in Sheffield had to make 270 people redundant but in making cuts they chose to keep open all libraries and all Sure Start centres despite cost pressures. This was then compared to the Labour council in Manchester who closed lots of each and laid off about 3,000 people – blaming the “Tory dominated government” for doing so.

    Sadly for the Lib Dems this was the “kick the Lib Dems” elections and no such comparisons would have made any difference to the outcome. But there are lots of examples of this – Labour councils spending extravagantly only to cut things that matter to make a political point. How would you explain that to one of the 3000 they had made redundant say in Manchester “sorry we have to let you go, but we need to make a political point that cuts are hurting us, so we’re going to have to hurt you”.

  • Tubby Isaacs 3rd Oct '13 - 9:59pm

    @Julian Tisi

    The government block grant is only part of the funds LAs get,

    The Tories tried comparing Trafford with Manchester like that, and this was called out as misleading- Manchester lost far more by other streams, apparently.

    Don’t know why Sheffield should be different to Manchester, mind.

  • David White 4th Oct '13 - 2:01pm

    Well, I wish that Young Nick would also attack Hull’s NewLab city council over its bonkers plan to close the only competition-sized swimming pool in our fair city. Just cos he’s a Sheffield MP doesn’t excuse him from sticking his oar in elsewhere.

  • David White 4th Oct '13 - 2:06pm

    Oh. OK, so The Dear Leader can’t find Hull. So just tell him to turn right at Doncaster and keep going for miles and miles. If he falls into the North Sea, he’ll know he’s missed ‘Ull.

  • >So just tell him to turn right at Doncaster and keep going for miles and miles.
    Those are the directions to Grimsby! 🙂

  • SaveDonValley 16th Oct '13 - 9:37pm

    If you want to save Don Valley stadium then please sign our new petition We apologise if you’ve signed one before but they are now asking for postal addresses, so you can sign this one too and it would really help! Spread the word, we need 5000 signatures by next Friday at midday. Thanks!

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