A war of words has erupted between Yorkshire’s two top cities after the leader of Sheffield Council accused counterparts in Leeds of inflicting politically motivated cuts on the city.
The rivalry between the two cities has been underlined in recent years.
Speaking to the YEP, Coun Paul Scriven, Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat leader, said the Labour-run administration in Leeds was acting “hugely politically”.
He said his council has announced 270 job losses - a relatively small total compared to the much heavier 1,500 redundancies planned in Leeds.
Coun Scriven said the Liberal Democrats had made a “political choice” to keep job losses low and protect frontline services – a choice he claimed has not been made by Labour-controlled councils in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.
He said: “I believe they are acting politically – hugely politically.
“I have made decisions that have protected jobs and protected services in the city of Sheffield.
“I would ask people to look at what we are doing in Liberal Democrat controlled Sheffield and compare it with big Labour controlled cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.
“People will see the difference.”
He said a decision to freeze the pay of all council staff earning more than £21,000 for two years had saved Sheffield £10m and helped ease the pain of some of the cuts.
“There will not be library closures, no leisure centres closing, no swimming pools closing, we will retain weekly bin collections, we will be retaining the same criteria for social care,” he said.
He added: “What is different here is political choices and political choices in Liberal Democrat Sheffield mean 270 job losses and in Labour Manchester it means 2,000 job losses, or 1,500 in Labour Leeds.”
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton today hit back, saying: “This is nonsense.
“I think Scriven was very angry he didn’t win the Sheffield Central seat at the election. As far as he was concerned he was a shoe-in and was going to be an MP and then probably a minister. This is very much sour grapes.”
Leeds has to make savings of £90m over 12 months and has already confirmed 1,500 jobs will go, 1,100 by the end of next month. Around 3,000 posts are to be axed over the next four years.
Sheffield is saving £80 million in the coming 12 months. It has already made 461 job losses this year through a combination of voluntary redundancies and empty posts which have not been filled. It last week announced another 270 job losses, meaning the workforce is set to be reduced by 731 in total over two years.
The Lib Dems are hanging on to power in Sheffield by the most slender of margins – the party lost its majority in May and only retain control of the town hall with the support of the independent and green councillors.
Labour MPs in South Yorkshire have accused Lib Dem council leaders of delaying swinging the jobs axe in the hope of leaving an incoming Labour administration with a string of deeply unpopular decisions to take.
This is the second time in two years Leeds has found itself at loggerheads with Sheffield. A row broke out in November 2008 when Sheffield MP Clive Betts began lobbying against plans to spend taxpayers’ money on the Leeds Arena.
Leeds council leader Keith Wakefield said: “He [Paul Scriven] is a stooge and apologist for the cuts and I think he has been lent on by [Nick] Clegg.
“I have never interfered with Sheffield but I feel this is an aftermath of the arena decision.
“We have worked with all sides to get to a voluntary position where we will lose 1,500 jobs by March next year.”
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