A review of some publications from the past

A review of some publications from the past – from The Social Science Journal:

The Social Science Journal review

This entry was posted in Latest News. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A review of some publications from the past

  1. Technotronic says:

    VERY IMPORTANT TREE NEWS

    On 2nd February 2016, Sheffield City Council (SCC) revealed a document named: The ‘Streets Ahead Five Year Tree Management Strategy 2012 – 2017’. It was released by SCC in response to a 140 page letter from the Save Our Roadside Trees group (SORT), dated 29th January 2016, addressed to the SCC Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry FOX: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AsWguV74n6x7ilK847XEmxeLyLi0 ).

    The letter from SORT was DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY COUNCILLOR in the city by John Turner – SCC Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources – on 1st February, 2016. It can be accessed here:

    Click to access SORT%20LETTER%20TO%20THE%20CABINET%20MEMBER%20FOR%20ENVIRONMENT%20AND%20TRANSPORT_29th%20January%2c%202016_v51.6_Corrected_1.pdf

    The The ‘Streets Ahead Five Year Tree Management Strategy 2012 – 2017’ was revealed on the day before SCC ‘debate’ of a petition (with > 6,295 signatures) presented by the Nether Edge tree group, in favour of SUSTAINABLE stewardship, adequate enforcement of compliance with arboricultural and urban forestry current good practice guidance and recommendations, and the safe, long-term retention of mature street trees – and the range and magnitude of valuable benefits that they afford to neighbourhoods and communities.

    ***
    4th FEBRUARY 2017

    The Co-Chair of Sheffield Tree Action Groups (Rebecca Hammond) submitted a request (Reference – FOI / 3453) to Sheffield City Council, under the Freedom of Information Act, as follows:

    “The version of the Streets Ahead Five Year Tree Management Strategy that is published on Sheffield City Council’s website is version 7 (January 2016). Please can you provide copies of versions 1 (February 2013), 2 (March 2013), 3 (May 2013), 4 (July 2013), 5 (November 2013), and 6 (November 2014).”

    SOURCE:
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/previous_versions_of_the_streets#outgoing-621129

    ***
    16th FEBRUARY 2017, SCC responded to FOI / 3453:

    “There is no time-bound obligation in relation to the tree strategy, and THE 2016 VERSION WAS ONLY RELEASED WITH THE PERMISSION OF AMEY as these documents are listed as documents which should remain confidential until the expiry of the Contract. Disclosure of information through an FOIA/ EIR DISCLOSURE COULD TO BE CONSIDERED A BREACH OF CONFIDENCE POSSIBLY RESULTING IN ACTION BEING TAKEN AGAINST THE COUNCIL, and therefore appropriate for consideration in this refusal notice.
    […]

    TO RELEASE THIS INFORMATION COULD IMPACT ON AMEY HALLAM HIGHWAYS’ ABILITY TO COMPETE FOR BUSINESS IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET because the specific information exempted may benefit a rival company. This could also adversely affect the relationship that the Council has with Amey Hallam Highways due to making INFORMATION, WHICH IS EXPECTED TO BE KEPT CONFIDENTIAL, public. THIS COULD POTENTIALLY LEAD TO ACTION AGAINST THE COUNCIL or a breakdown in the working relationship between the parties, AT SIGNIFICANT AND PROHIBITIVE FINANCIAL COST TO THE COUNCIL and by association the local taxpayer.

    IN THIS CASE THERE IS A SPECIFIC CONTRACTUAL REQUIREMENT FOR THIS COMMERCIALLY SENSITIVE INFORMATION TO BE PROTECTED UNDER THE PFI CONTRACT.
    […]

    On balance there is a strong public interest in the disclosure of information related to the earlier tree management strategy work; however, in this case we believe the public interest in AVOIDING PREJUDICE TO THE COMMERCIAL INTERESTS AND CONFIDENTIALITY OF THE COUNCIL TOGETHER WITH AMEY HALLAM HIGHWAYS OVERRIDES THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN DISCLOSURE.”

    SOURCE (see the attached document):
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/previous_versions_of_the_streets#incoming-938910

    ***
    12th MARCH 2018

    ‘Sheffield council in secret plot to chop down half the city’s trees’:
    https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/sheffield-council-in-secret-plot-to-chop-down-city-trees/

    QUOTE:

    “SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SECRETLY PLOTTED TO CHOP DOWN HALF OF THE 36,000 TREES that line the city’s streets.

    Newly released documents show that a maintenance contract, signed between the council and contractor Amey, entailed the replacement of nearly half of the city’s historic trees.

    THE COUNCIL HAD PREVIOUSLY DENIED THERE WAS A TARGET FOR TREE REMOVAL AND REFUSED TO RELEASE DOCUMENTS relating to the tree maintenance clause in its contract with Amey.

    After a lengthy battle to obtain the documents, THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER ORDERED THEIR PUBLICATION WITHIN 35 DAYS.

    One passage of the newly-published information states: ‘THE SERVICE PROVIDER [AMEY] SHALL REPLACE HIGHWAY TREES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ANNUAL TREE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME AT A RATE OF NOT LESS THAN 200 PER YEAR SO THAT 17,500 HIGHWAY TREES ARE REPLACED BY THE END OF THE TERM.

    ‘Such replacement is to be in accordance with the HIGHWAY TREE REPLACEMENT POLICY, unless authority [Sheffield Council] approval has been obtained for deviation from this policy.’”

    A screenshot of the section of the contract with the target to fell 17,500 mature street trees can be viewed on STAG Facebook, using this link:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1115498425293912/

    ***
    19th APRIL 2018

    ‘Sheffield Council keeps tree-felling policy secret – claiming move is for the ‘greater good’:
    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/our-region/south-yorkshire/sheffield/sheffield-council-keeps-tree-felling-policy-secret-claiming-move-is-for-the-greater-good-1-9126025

    QUOTE:

    “The council has rejected a Freedom of Information request by The Yorkshire Post to see its currently-redacted ‘Highway Tree Replacement Policy’ contained in its £2.2bn PFI Streets Ahead contract with Amey.
    […]

    The response stated: ‘WE BELIEVE THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN MAINTAINING THE EXEMPTION OUTWEIGHS THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN DISCLOSURE in this instance.

    ‘Please note, PUBLIC INTEREST IS WHAT IS OF GREATER GOOD TO THE COMMUNITY and not what interests the public.’
    […]

    When asked by The Yorkshire Post whether there is anything in the contract that confirms felling is a last resort, Sheffield Council said it would be making no further comment as it is CURRENTLY WORKING ON AN UPDATED TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY.

    A council spokesperson said: ‘THE STRATEGY DOCUMENT IS BEING WORKED ON AND WILL BE RELEASED IN DUE COURSE. Until this document is finalised internally, we have nothing further to add.’”

    ***
    16th MAY 2018

    ‘Sheffield Council’s secret policy for tree-felling revealed’:
    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/sheffield-council-s-secret-policy-for-tree-felling-revealed-1-9167600

    QUOTE:

    “The council’s HIGHWAY TREE REPLACEMENT POLICY HAS BEEN MADE PUBLIC TODAY after The Yorkshire Post requested an internal review of a decision to keep the document secret last month.
    [..]
    Around 6,000 trees have been felled so far.
    It was revealed in March the contract contains a target to remove 17,500 of the city’s 36,000 street trees ‘in accordance with the HIGHWAY TREE REPLACEMENT POLICY, unless authority [Sheffield Council] approval has been obtained for DEVIATION from this policy’.

    THE CONTRACT POLICY, WHICH IS LESS THAN TWO PAGES LONG, CONTAINS NO MENTION OF THE SO-CALLED ‘6 Ds’ – the criteria the council had previously said is used for deciding whether to remove trees…

    THERE IS ALSO NO MENTION OF A SERIES OF ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS to save trees that the council previously said could be used under the contract to save threatened trees from felling.

    Instead, the contract policy focuses on what new saplings are suitable to be used as replacements, with one of the key considerations ‘minimising future maintenance requirements and nuisance’ – including a ‘preference for small leaves’ in choosing replacements.

    It adds that ‘ALL TREE REPLACEMENT WORK SHALL BE CARRIED OUT IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOOD ARBORICULTURAL PRACTICE’ AND THE REQUIREMENTS OF BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION for tree work.

    It says that where felling is planned, ‘THERE SHALL BE A PERIOD OF CONSULTATION WITH RESIDENTS to ensure they are fully aware of the replacement proposals and have sufficient opportunity to make comments or suggestions regarding the proposals’…
    […]

    THE POLICY CONTRASTS WITH THE COUNCIL’S FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY, which was published in 2016 and says tree-felling is a ‘last resort’, with engineering solutions to save them considered first. But AN FOI RESPONSE EARLIER THIS YEAR CONFIRMED THE CONTRACT SUPERSEDES THE STRATEGY IF THERE IS A CONFLICT BETWEEN THEM…
    […]

    The strategy was first made public in early 2016, shortly before tree campaigner DAVE DILLNER WENT TO HIGH COURT TO SEEK A JUDICIAL REVIEW of council decisions.

    In April 2016, MR JUSTICE GILBART REJECTED THE APPLICATION AS ‘MISCONCEIVED’ AFTER CITING THE STRATEGY, which had been brought to the court’s attention by Mr Dillner, as an “important document” in assessing the council’s approach to felling.

    The five-year strategy for 2012 to 2017 lists six previous versions of it dating back to February 2013 on its opening page. BUT A SUBSEQUENT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST BY CAMPAIGNERS TO SEE THE PREVIOUS VERSIONS WAS INITIALLY REJECTED on the grounds they were “commercially sensitive”. THE COUNCIL SUBSEQUENTLY REVISED ITS POSITION TO SAY THE INFORMATION WAS “NOT HELD” in any form AND SAID THERE WAS NO STATUTORY REQUIREMENT OR “BUSINESS PURPOSE” TO RETAIN EARLIER VERSIONS OF THE DOCUMENT.

    Sheffield Council said documents used in the proceedings contained ‘legitimate information’ and categorically rejected the suggested [sic] there had been an attempt to mislead the court…”

    *****
    NOTE:

    It was in response to a Freedom of Information Request dated 4th FEBRUARY 2017 (Reference – FOI / 3453) that SCC claimed – on 16th JULY 2018 to have “stumbled upon the previous versions of the strategies which were not previously identified.” The SCC response can be accessed here:
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/previous_versions_of_the_streets#incoming-1188736

    The earliest version of the ‘Five Year Tree Management Strategy’ (listed as ‘5 Year Tree Management Strategy 2012 Redacted [PDF, 693KB]’) can be accessed online, at the Sheffield City Council webpage named Streets Ahead Documents, using the following link:

    Click to access 5%20Year%20Tree%20Management%20Strategy%202012%20Redacted.pdf

    QUOTE (from page 2):

    “SHEFFIELD HIGHWAYS MAINTENANCE PFI

    RECORD OF REVISIONS

    As part of the management review, THE SERVICE PROVIDER SHALL REVIEW THE FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY AT PERIODS NOT EXCEEDING ONE (1) YEAR, and shall update accordingly.

    The frequency of revision will be determined by the importance and number of changes accumulated since the previous revision. The Service Provider shall note reviews, including nil returns, in the table below.
    […]

    Register of CONTROLLED COPIES

    THE SERVICE PROVIDER SHALL RETAIN COPY NUMBER ONE (1) in a marked-up condition, showing changes and alterations between revisions. UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO THIS DOCUMENT IS AVAILABLE TO SHEFFIELD HIGHWAYS MAINTENANCE PFI STAFF via the network, WITH A HARD COPY (controlled) HELD AT THE OLIVE GROVE DEPOT AND THE ECCLESFIELD DEPOT.”

    *****
    A TRANSCRIPT OF Cllr Fox’s EXACT WORDS AT THE MEETING OF FULL COUNCIL ON 3rd FEBRUARY 2016 (During ‘debate’ of the petition presented by the Nether Edge tree group):

    “AMEY HAD THE FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY WITHIN THEIR CONFIDENTIAL CONTRACT. We listened; we listened to what people have said and we’ve been able to release that document, Lord Mayor, out in to the public. Lord Mayor, with that, we also had an opportunity that we believed in previous ‘debates’, as always throughout here, is that OUR POLICIES AND OUR PROCEDURES ARE UP FOR CHALLENGE. IT HAS BEEN STATED, NOT ONCE, BUT MANY TIMES, THAT TAKING A TREE IS A LAST RESORT; and, to deal with that, and to deal with a small jigsaw piece of the Streets Ahead project, is the reason why we’ve got the Independent Tree Panel”

    SOURCE:
    An audio file of the meeting of full Council held on 3rd February 2016:
    https://1drv.ms/u/s!AsWguV74n6x7jAfTKJahtglxIcuM

    The audio file is named:
    ‘Cllr Terry Fox – SCC Cabinet Member For Environment And Transport – 3rd February 2016_5yr Doc_Last Resort_ITP_Nether Edge_Petition_160203_008_1_4_2_03’

    REFERENCE:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/latest-from-deepa-and-the-trees-campaign/comment-page-1/#comment-2306

    *****
    A quote from page 20 of the minutes of the meeting of full Council that occurred on 3rd February 2016:

    “Councillor Terry FOX, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, thanked the petitioners and campaigners. He stated…

    AMEY HAD A FIVE YEAR TREE STRATEGY WITHIN THE CONTRACT.
    Information which had been PART OF A CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENT had now been released as public information. Councillor Fox said that the policy and procedures which were in place were up for people to challenge if they wished. Removing trees was ,he said, a last resort.”

    SOURCE:
    http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/g6021/Printed%20minutes%20Wednesday%2003-Feb-2016%2014.00%20Council.pdf?T=1

    *****
    On 4th February 2016

    The day after SCC ‘debate’ of a petition (with > 6,295 signatures) presented by the Nether Edge tree group, in an e-mail to a lead SORT participant, the SCC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR for the ‘PLACE’ directorate (SIMON GREEN – responsible for highways) stated:

    “For the avoidance of doubt, A TREE STRATEGY FOR HIGHWAY TREES HAS EXISTED SINCE DAY ONE OF THE STREETS AHEAD PROJECT, and has been alluded to in hundreds of pieces of previous correspondence to campaign activists (typically with a comment along the lines of: “the lack of a published tree strategy in the public realm should not be confused as inferring or meaning that the arboricultural operations of the streets ahead project are taking place without robust strategic direction”).

    This was our way of trying to infer in a polite manner that a tree strategy is in full existence and use, and has been since 2012, however COMMERCIAL RESTRICTIONS ON THE CONTRACT HAVE UNTIL NOW PREVENTED THE RELEASE OF THIS INFORMATION. The Authority is endeavouring to release this information into the public realm in the coming weeks.”

    *****
    The SCC Executive Director’s comment was in response to this criticism from SORT, made in response to a communication from the SCC Director of Development Services (David Caulfield: responsible for highway trees and also the former SCC Head of Planning):

    “5. Mr Caulfield, in any other line of work within the realms of serving the general public, there is a paper trail. Why do you find the current LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY, CONSISTENCY, TRANSPARENCY AND QUITE FRANKLY HONESTY, WITHIN THE STREETS AHEAD PROJECT to be acceptable? Quite patently it is NOT acceptable that an Amey ‘expert’ can make a subjective decision that is then not traceable or explainable. Such DECISIONS NEED TO BE MADE WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF A PLANNED, SYSTEMATIC, INTEGRATED APPROACH i.e. A Tree Strategy.

    “The existence of a relevant strategy document, is the most significant indicator of a planned approach to management” (Britt, et al. 2008, pg.158)

    Without such a document, your assertion that arboricultural operations of Amey and the Streets Ahead project are taking place with ‘robust strategic direction’, remains a matter of trust. A TRUST THAT HAS BEEN SORELY TESTED ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION. NOT LEAST OF WHICH IS THE FACT THAT JULIE DORE HAS RECENTLY LIED TO SHEFFIELDERS ON LOCAL RADIO. Cllr DORE said “All I can tell you at the moment is that we have halted the tree felling” on the Rony Robinson show on 11th December 2015. Cllr DORE said that felling had stopped on the 2nd Dec, pending the outcome of ‘Independent’ Surveys to residents. Meanwhile, STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Groups) has video evidence of 10 HEALTHY, mature trees being felled on Humphrey Rd, Greenhill on the 10th December 2015, despite the assurances given by Cllr Dore.”

    *****
    No further information was released by Sheffield City Council over the following weeks or months. IN FACT, IT WAS OVER TWO YEARS BEFORE SCC MADE ANY MORE INFORMATION AVAILABLE. On 5th February 2016, SCC were served with a Court Order – an injunction – that stated:

    “The Defendant [i.e. SCC] and the Interested Party [i.e. Amey] shall not, whether by themselves, their servants, agents or otherwise, fell any street tree in the City of Sheffield under the Sheffield Streets Ahead Project unless an APPROPRIATELY QUALIFIED independent arboricultural expert has produced a WRITTEN REPORT stating that the tree presents an IMMEDIATE DANGER to the public and must be felled.”

    Source:
    http://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/402.html#comment-402

    https://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/582.html#comment-582

    THE INJUNCTION LASTED FOR THREE MONTHS and marked the beginning of a lengthy legal dispute between Mr David Dillner and Sheffield City Council (SCC) and Amey (the highway maintenance service provider).

    THE ‘STREETS AHEAD FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY 2012 – 2017’, made public on 2nd February 2016, was used by SCC & Amey, in defence of their acts and omissions. The document was PRESENTED TO AND ACCEPTED BY THE HIGH COURT AS A CONTRACT DOCUMENT, during the case of R [Dillner] v Sheffield CC and Amey Hallam Highways Ltd:

    Click to access dillner-v-scc-judgment.pdf

    *****
    THE ‘STREETS AHEAD FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY 2012 – 2017’
    document, revealed to the public on 2nd Feb 2016, can be accessed via one of these links:

    Click to access SCC_Sheffield%20Streets%20Ahead%205%20Year%20Tree%20Management%20Strategy.pdf

    Click to access Streets%20Ahead%205%20Year%20Tree%20Management%20Strategy.pdf

    From the file ‘Properties’, YOU WILL NOTE THAT THE AUTHOR OF THE DOCUMENT WAS AMEY. The evidence appears to indicate that SCC LIED in response to a request, submitted (on 19th JULY 2018, by Tom Danes) under the Freedom of Information Act, when they stated (In the SCC response, the document is referreed to as ‘Document 1’):

    “Request: Identify the organization that compiled the DOCUMENT 1 as
    published on the link. [ https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/roads-and-pavements/streetsahead/Streets%20Ahead%205%20Year%20Tree%20Management%20Strategy.pdf ]

    [RESPONSE:] Document 1 was PREPARED BY SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL. In order to aid public understanding of the documents submitted under the Streets Ahead contract,
    a simpler, more accessible version of the 2016 Five Year Tree Management Strategy document was produced and published on the Council’s website.”

    Request: In relation to the Streets Ahead contract was the DOCUMENT 1

    [RESPONSE:] ‘Mandatory’, ‘Guidance, ‘Contract Specific’ or other (identify)
    As is outlined above, Document 1 was prepared by Sheffield City Council to
    assist public understanding and consequently does not fall into any of
    these categories.

    Request: Does or did DOCUMENT 1 part of Amey’s annual review of the Tree
    Management Strategy.

    [RESPONSE:] No. As is outlined above, Document 1 was prepared by Sheffield City
    Council to assist public understanding.”

    SOURCE:
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/streets_ahead_five_year_tree_man_2#incoming-1210057

    ***
    16th MAY 2018

    ‘Read Sheffield Council’s secret contract policy for felling trees in full’:
    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/read-sheffield-council-s-secret-contract-policy-for-felling-trees-in-full-1-9167613

    QUOTE:

    “SHEFFIELD COUNCIL’S LONG SECRET CONTRACTUAL POLICY FOR THE FELLING OF THOUSANDS OF TREES IN THE CITY HAS BEEN MADE PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY.

    Read in full the details of the policy, which has been used to guide the removal of thousands of trees and their replacement with saplings as part of a £2.2bn highways maintenance contract with a company called Amey which began in 2012.”

    *****
    NOTE:

    The HIGHWAY TREE REPLACEMENT POLICY was available to view using the link provided. However, it can no longer be accessed via that link. Instead, it can now be found on the Sheffield City Council webpage named Streets Ahead Documents:
    https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/roads-pavements/streets-ahead/streets-ahead-documents.html

    The policy is on pages 36 & 37 of a PDF file named
    ‘SCHEDULE 29 – AUTHORITY POLICIES (PDF, 24MB)’:

    Click to access schedule%2029.pdf

    Interestingly, the Schedule incorporates the ‘SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL HIGHWAY TREE DESIGN GUIDE’, on pages 41 to 71, including technical drawings (engineering specifications [planting]), on pages 62 to 69, of the kind that the Save Our Roadside Trees group – SORT (Sheffield’s first tree group) have been requesting to see since May 2015.

    QUOTE:

    “STANDARD DETAILS & SPECIFICATIONS FOR HIGHWAY TREE PLANTING

    This document aims to provide a set of guidelines and details for tree planting
    within the adopted highway and adjacent land where tree planting may affect
    the highway and for the various situations and conditions that are likely to be
    encountered.

    “1. INTRODUCTION
    1.1. THE CASE FOR HIGHWAY TREES

    1.1.1. Sheffield is well known for being a green city which has benefitted from tree planting across many parts of the city. However AN AUDIT OF THE URBAN FOREST WITHIN A LARGE SECTION OF THE CITY has shown that the useful remaining contribution of a significant percentage of the large mature trees is limited – due in part to their condition and in part to their size when located in relatively cramped urban situations. The apparent preference for planting Prunus and Sorbus tree species over the past 50 years has done little to mitigate this situation.

    1.1.4. TREES ARE IMPORTANT IN THE SHEFFIELD STREET SCENE – IMPROVING AMENITY AND BIODIVERSITY; it is now imperative, given the situation and threats stated above, to take action to reinvigorate the legacy of tree planting that makes Sheffield a green and attractive city.

    1.1.5. LARGE, MATURE TREES ARE THE MOST VALUABLE AND THE DEVELOPER SHOULD CONSIDER THE LARGEST, LONGEST LIVED SPECIES SUITABLE FOR THE GIVEN SPACE and their landscape impact. Neither can the survival of newly planted trees be left to chance. Trees are generally highly adaptable to hostile environments and WITH THE CORRECT SPECIFICATIONS, CHOICE OF SPECIES AND VARIETY AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL AT ALL STAGES OF THE PROJECT, there is no reason why survival and subsequent growth should not be comparable to a non-urban situation.”

    ***
    27th JULY 2018:

    ‘Detailed plans to remove 17,500 trees in Sheffield drawn up six years ago, ‘lost’ document reveals’:
    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/our-region/south-yorkshire/sheffield/detailed-plans-to-remove-17-500-trees-in-sheffield-drawn-up-six-years-ago-lost-document-reveals-1-9271813

    https://www.pressreader.com/uk/yorkshire-post/20180727/281547996689637

    QUOTE:

    “Newly-discovered versions of a FIVE-YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY have now been published online and THE FIRST VERSION from 2012 – the year in which the contract with Amey under which the work is being carried out started – INCLUDES A CHART DETAILING PROPOSALS TO REMOVE PRECISELY 17,500 TREES and replace them with saplings in seven areas of the city.

    The ‘HIGHWAY TREE REPLACEMENT PLAN’ TABLE set out proposals suggesting that in south-east Sheffield 1,370 trees would be replaced, with 2,795 in the south of the city, 3,979 in the south-west, 2,103 in central Sheffield, 2,420 in the north, 2,939 in the north-east and 1,894 in the east. The figures add together to exactly 17,500.”

    *****
    NOTE:

    The ‘Five-year Tree Management Strategy’ with the table (Table 6: pages 18 & 19) can be accessed using this link:

    Click to access 5%20Year%20Tree%20Management%20Strategy%202012%20Redacted.pdf

    QUOTE (from page 18):

    “HIGHWAY TREE REPLACEMENT POLICY

    The Service Provider shall maintain the Authority’s Highway Tree stock throughout the Term.
    The Service Provider shall achieve this:

    • Using Data captured during the Tree Condition Survey and with the assistance of an accurate Data management system

    • FELLING AND REPLANTING HIGHWAY TREES IN ACCORDANCE WITH the objectives and programmes detailed in the ANNUAL TREE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME. Although there are no unique requirements for Highway Tree maintenance during the Core Investment Period, the Service Provider anticipates FELLING AND REPLANTING SOME ONE THOUSAND (1,000) HIGHWAY TREES EACH YEAR across the Project Network.

    The Service Provider SHALL manage the total number of Highway Trees across the Project Network on a Community Assembly Area basis (Table 6). THIS WILL ENSURE that each
    Community Assembly Area retains its current Highway Tree stock levels, with NO DETRIMENT CAUSED TO THE HABITATS OR AESTHETICS OF ANY AREA.

    The Service Provider shall manage this BY IMPLEMENTING ITS FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY and Highway Tree Replacement Policy, which the Service Provider shall agree with the Authority.”

    A copy of the table (Table 6) can also be found on STAG Facebook, in the comments area below this post:
    https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1115076618669426/

    • Technotronic says:

      COMMENT FROM STAG FACEBOOK

      Including comment from the Co-Chairman of Sheffield Tree Action Groups (Paul Brooke)

      PETER BROOKS (19th December 2018):
      “The word ‘shall’ in such a contract means mandatory and if unfulfilled, presumably due to incur penalties. To negate this I think that another formal, contractual agreement would have to be in place. Amey would not be able to just ignore the 17,500 figure on the vague, verbal assurance of SCC”

      JUSTIN BUXTON (20th December 2018):
      “Part A, 1.2 – Priority of Documents

      This Contract shall be construed and interpreted as a whole provided that in the event of any conflict or inconsistency between the provision of the Main Body, the Schedules and the Annexures, or between any of the Schedules, then, save as expressly provided for by Clause 1.3 (The Senior Lenders’ Direct Agreement), the conflict or inconsistency shall be resolved according to the following descending order of priority:

      1.2.1
      the Main Body and Schedule 1 (Definitions);

      1.2.2
      Schedule 2 (Output Specification) and Schedule 4 (Payment Mechanism);

      1.2.3
      the Schedules and Annexures excluding Schedule 1, Schedule 2 and Schedule 4.”

      DEERHUND SHETTY (20th December 2018):
      “This looks interesting, but needs some interpretation. What is it saying Justin?”

      JUSTIN BUXTON (21st December 2018):
      “It means the contractual obligation to fell 17.5K as stated in 6.38 of Schedule 2 is primary and can not be superseded or adjusted by the ATMP.”

      PAUL BROOKE (21st December 2018):
      “Dont think so Justin. The ATMP is in Annexure 1 in Service Standard 6 of Schedule 2. as such its priority is probably the same as that for Schedule 2. Even if it were a lower priority, the performance measure for 6.38 (what causes a Performance Adjustment) is the ATMP. 6.38 states they must replace trees IN ACCORDANCE with the ATMP so 17,500 are replaced. Contractually the 17500 is a target but the obligation/requirement for performance of the contract is that trees are replaced in accordance with the ATMP. We know that the ATMP process was only agreed for 1 year so SCC/AMEY have failed to use the process that would determine whether the performance requirement has been met or not.

      Its a mess that they need to address with a contractually binding variation.”

      JUSTIN BUXTON (21st December 2018):
      “So the contract is effectively rewritten annually?”

      PAUL BROOKE (21st December 2018):
      “Justin Buxton not the ‘contract’ but according to SCC the performance requirement – eg how many trees to be replaced each year (other than cat 1 emergency fells) is stipulated by the ATMP. But they both failed to do the ATMP process (the annual sign off by SCC of Amey’s recommendations) each year. In the absence of an annual plan we can rightly assume that Amey were working to the 17500 target as that was what they thought they would be doing when the made costing assumptions re maintenance etc when they bid. The contract as stated in 6.38 allows SCC and Amey to agree on fewer trees (which is what they are now saying) by setting the number using the ATMP.

      I think SCC has put themselves in a weak position by not using the ATMP and Amey has better lawyers, so the fact that there is no evidence of SCC refusing to allow a felling and 100% of the time accepting Ames recommendation, doesn’t fill anyone with any confidence. It may well be the case that contractually SCC can’t refuse a felling regardless of the condition of the highway.”

      JUSTIN BUXTON (21st December 2018):
      “I think SCC is confusing matters by referring to the Annual Tree Management Programme as a method/process.

      Programmes are documents that specify what, how and when contractors will carry out works to achieve their contractual obligations. This would apply to my reading of the ATMP pursuant to achieving 6.38 Performance Requirement.

      Once a Programme has been submitted to a client, pursuant to a contract specification, the client must then facilitate the achievement of said programme.

      Any deviation from this would be a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and not legally binding.”

      DEERHUND SHETTY (21st December 2018):
      “What would need to happen to make deviations legally binding?”

      JUSTIN BUXTON (21st December 2018):
      “By revising the actual contract not annexes or other ancillary documents. It would also require approval from the Senior Lenders.

      Neither Darren Butt nor Amey LG Ltd would have anything to do with it, technically they are subcontractors to AHH Ltd.”

      DAVID GLASS (21st December 2018):
      “They fact that AMEY is up for sale raises some interesting questions about secret clauses in contracts.

      Would you buy into a contract if you could not see it and know how you were committed and how you would profit from it?

      If you need to know what you are buying when do you get to see the secret bits?

      Is the secrecy only valid for AMEY and does it stop being required when they sell the contract to another party?”

      JUSTIN BUXTON (21st December 2018):
      “The sale of Amey PLC is an interesting issue. As they chose to use a wholly owned subsidiary as a ‘main service provider’, Amey LG Ltd.

      The new owners of Amey PLC could choose to sell Amey LG Ltd.

      The new owners of Amey LG Ltd could renege on anything said by Darren Butt.”

      SOURCE:
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1115498425293912/

      NOTE:
      Buxton’s comment, dated 20th December 2018, is a quote from page 12 of a PDF file named ‘Streets Ahead Contract (PDF, 1MB)’. That can be accessed via this link:

      Click to access Contract.pdf

      Also see:
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/great-news-and-a-small-victory-in-the-battle-to-save-sheffields-street-trees/comment-page-1/#comment-2698
      Alternatively, find comment posted by Ian Challis, in the comments area, here:
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1016723381838084/

      OTHER NEWS…

      Newspapers:
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/sheffield-tree-campaign-back-in-the-national-news-in-the-guardian/comment-page-1/#comment-2674

      Video:
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/dave-dilner-speaks-out-about-sheffield-street-trees/comment-page-1/#comment-2671

  2. Technotronic says:

    CORRECTION:

    The quote of the SCC responses provided by SCC to a Freedom of Information request by Tom Danes should read:

    “Request: In relation to the Streets Ahead contract was the DOCUMENT 1 ‘Mandatory’, ‘Guidance, ‘Contract Specific’ or other (identify)

    [RESPONSE:] As is outlined above, Document 1 was prepared by Sheffield City Council to
    assist public understanding and consequently does not fall into any of these categories.”

    (Document 1 = THE ‘STREETS AHEAD FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY 2012 – 2017’ document, revealed to the public on 2nd Feb 2016. It can be accessed via the following link:

    Click to access SCC_Sheffield%20Streets%20Ahead%205%20Year%20Tree%20Management%20Strategy.pdf

    • Technotronic says:

      UPDATE – LIES & WILLFUL DECEIT BY SCC EXPOSED

      THE YORKSHIRE POST – Wednesday, 14th October 2020
      ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL MISLED PUBLIC AND ACTED WITH ‘LACK OF HONESTY’ OVER TREE-FELLING SCANDAL, DAMNING INVESTIGATION FINDS’
      https://web.archive.org/web/20201014114220/https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-council-misled-public-and-acted-lack-honesty-over-tree-felling-scandal-damning-investigation-finds-3002854

      SELECTED EXTRACTS:

      “A 25-page report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has recommended an unreserved public apology is issued by the council to the people of the city within the next three months over its handling of the controversial removal of thousands of street trees.
      […]
      The report then said there had been unacceptable “lack of honesty” on occasion from the council about its wider approach to the tree-felling issue.

      ‘WHAT WE FIND UNACCEPTABLE WAS THE COUNCIL’S DECISION TO DESCRIBE ITS STRATEGY AS REQUIRING AMEY TO FOLLOW THE 14 ENGINEERING AND OTHER SOLUTIONS LISTED IN THE DOCUMENT if a tree was found “damaging” or “discriminatory”.

      THESE WERE NEVER PART OF ITS CONTRACT OR THOSE OTHER VERSIONS OF THE TREE STRATEGY THE CONTRACTOR HAD WORKED TO.

      ‘The Council’s December 2019 review acknowledges its contractor would never use some of the ‘solutions’ referred to. But the Council did not explain this in either its public communications or in its correspondence with Mr G. He questioned the Council repeatedly about whether the contractor had to follow the engineering or other solutions as a contractual obligation. He received MISLEADING INFORMATION FROM THE COUNCIL in its replies.’

      ‘The published version of the strategy also formed the basis of the instructions given to the ITP. THE COUNCIL THEREFORE EMBARKED ON A PROCESS OF CONSULTATION AND INDEPENDENT REVIEW THAT REFERRED TO A STRATEGY CONTAINING ELEMENTS THAT IT HAD NEVER FOLLOWED AND NEVER INTENDED TO.

      ‘We find this led to the Council not using engineering solutions to retain trees on Mr G’s road despite the ITP advice to do so and their availability. We note in three cases where the ITP advised retaining a tree the Council did not dispute the availability of an engineering or alternative solution. But rejected it on grounds of cost. Cost was not directly mentioned in the published strategy document as a reason for not carrying out an ‘engineering solution’ to retain a tree.’

      THE FINDINGS SAID THERE WAS A ‘RECURRING PATTERN OF THE COUNCIL FAILING TO BE OPEN AND TRANSPARENT in decisions taken under its Streets Ahead policy’.

      It said: ‘Transparency goes to the heart of trust in decision making. It is at the heart of good administration. WE CONSIDER ONE OF THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE SIGNIFICANT LOSS OF TRUST THE COUNCIL SUFFERED in carrying out its Streets Ahead policy, felt by Mr G and many others, LIES IN ITS LACK OF TRANSPARENCY, OPENNESS AND ON OCCASION, HONESTY.’”

      *****
      OF INTEREST:

      1)
      SCC MALFEASANCE, LIES, SECRECY AND DECEIT – A NEWS ARCHIVE COVERING THE OCTOBER 2020 PERIOD’:
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2020/10/15/sheffield-street-trees-message-from-deepa-shetty/comment-page-1/#comment-4892

      2)
      ‘HOW TO RETAIN MEMORIAL TREES’
      (a letter that Mr Long sent to The Star, Sheffield Telegraph, The Yorkshire Post & The Guardian, dated 6th December 2017. Not printed):
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/great-news-and-a-small-victory-in-the-battle-to-save-sheffields-street-trees/comment-page-1/#comment-2697

      3)
      ‘STREET TREES: MYTH Vs FACT’
      (a letter that Mr Long sent to The Star & The Yorkshire Post, dated 22nd December 2017. Not printed. Includes audio evidence)
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2017/12/21/merry-christmas-to-all-our-tree-fellas/#comment-1991

      4)
      ‘IN MEMORY OF AND THANKS FOR THE LIFE OF ALAN ROBSHAW’
      (in July 2015, Alan represented Sheffield’s first tree group – SORT – at the meeting of full Council and made two speeches. By doing so, he made full use of every available opportunity to simultaneously address all city Councillors, in person):
      https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/mystery-photograph-of-the-day-no-26/comment-page-1/#comment-4310

  3. Technotronic says:

    SCC MISUSE & ABUSE OF THE FOI ACT

    DON’T BE FOBBED OFF BY AN INCOMPETENT SCC INFORMATION OFFICER

    Sheffield City Council (SCC) often dismiss requests for information about aspects of the £2.2bn highway maintenance contract for the 25yr ‘Streets Ahead’ project, by asserting that SCC does not hold any relevant information, as Amey has it and it is therefore ‘commercially sensitive’.

    The Information Commissioner has ruled that it is WRONG for SCC to misuse and abuse the Freedom Of Information Act to withhold access to information that is held on its behalf by the service provider (contractor) for the Streets Ahead project.

    Following investigation, on 4th October 2017 the Information Commissioner’s Office issued a Decision Notice (Reference: FS50637180). The Decision Notice can be accessed via this link:

    Click to access FlexiPave%20-%20INFORMATION%20COMMISSIONER%20-%20ICO%20Decision%20Notice%20-%20FS50637180%20-%20SCC%20%26%20AMEY%20LIES%2c%20MISREPRESENTATION%2c%20DECEIT%20%26%20INCOMPETENCE%20EXPOSED.pdf

    THE ICO DECISION NOTICE STATES:

    “13.
    During the course of this investigation, IT BECAME EVIDENT THAT THE COUNCIL DID HOLD INFORMATION, BY VIRTUE OF IT BEING HELD ON ITS BEHALF BY ITS CONTRACTOR AMEY as per regulation (2)(b) of the EIR. Amey has a contract with the Council to carry out maintenance work for roads, street lights, and roadside trees. WHILST THIS MAINTENANCE WORK HAS BEEN OUTSOURCED TO AMEY IT REMAINS THE COUNCIL’S RESPONSIBILITY, AND THEREFORE FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE EIR INFORMATION about the location of the 143 trees IS HELD BY THE COUNCIL.
    […]

    40.
    The SECTION 46 CODE OF PRACTICE* provides guidance on effective record management policies and why this is of benefit for both public authorities and requesters alike. The following extract comes from PARAGRAPH 9.3 and deals with what record systems should be held:

    ‘9.3
    RECORDS SYSTEMS should be designed to meet the authority’s operational needs and using them SHOULD BE AN INTEGRAL PART OF BUSINESS OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES. RECORDS SYSTEMS SHOULD HAVE THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:

    a)
    THEY SHOULD BE EASY TO UNDERSTAND AND USE so as to reduce the effort required of those who create and use the records within them. Ease of use is an important consideration when developing or selecting a system;

    b)
    THEY SHOULD ENABLE QUICK AND EASY RETRIEVAL OF INFORMATION. With digital systems this should include the capacity to search for information requested under the Act;

    h)
    THEY SHOULD ENABLE AN AUDIT TRAIL to be produced of occasions on which selected records have been seen, used, amended and deleted.’

    41.
    The Commissioner considers that this guidance would be appropriate in this instance. THE COUNCIL (VIA AMEY) HOLDS INFORMATION ABOUT ITS MAINTENANCE PROGRAMME IN A WEATHER-STAINED MANUAL FORM with little recognisable capability for extracting details.

    THIS SHOWS THE RECORDS ARE NOT EASY TO USE, DO NOT ALLOW FOR QUICK RETRIEVAL, and – from what the Council said about ongoing changes to the records – do not allow for it go back and determine what information would have been held.”

    * Selected extracts from page 14 of ‘LORD CHANCELLOR’S CODE OF PRACTICE ON THE MANAGEMENT OF RECORD S issued under section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000’ (published by the MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, on 16th July 2009):

    Click to access foi-section-46-code-of-practice-1.pdf

    SOURCE:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/latest-from-deepa-and-the-trees-campaign/comment-page-1/#comment-2345

    *****
    ALSO SEE:

    ‘Transparency In Outsourcing: A Roadmap’
    (published by the Information Commissioner’s Office, on 20th March 2015):

    Click to access transparency-in-outsourcing-roadmap.pdf

    ‘Section 46 Code of Practice – records management’
    (published by the Information Commissioner’s Office, on 7th June 2016):

    Click to access section-46-code-of-practice-records-management-foia-and-eir.pdf

    ‘Outsourcing and Freedom of Information – guidance document’
    (published by the Information Commissioner’s Office, on 18th August 2017):

    Click to access outsourcing-and-freedom-of-information.pdf

    A letter to The Star (from SORT), dated Tuesday 3rd May, 2016 (‘If Trees Could Vote!’):
    http://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/507.html#comment-507

    A letter to The Star and Sheffield Telegraph (from SORT), dated 8th October 2015 (‘Trees? Get Lost!’):
    http://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/333.html#comment-333

    SCC Misuse & Abuse of the Freedom of Information Act:
    http://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/451.html#comment-451

    http://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/260.html#comment-260

    http://stocksbridgecommunity.org.archived.website/comment/692.html#comment-692

    The Yorkshire Post (23rd April 2018):
    ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL ACCUSED OF ‘FABRICATION’ OF TREE STRATEGY CITED IN COURT CASE’:
    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/sheffield-council-accused-of-fabrication-of-tree-strategy-cited-in-court-case-1-9131716

    QUOTE:

    “In April 2016, Mr Justice Gilbart rejected the application as ‘misconceived’ after citing the strategy, which had been brought to the court’s attention by Mr Dillner, as an ‘important document’ in assessing the council’s approach to felling. Sheffield Council today said documents used in the proceedings contained ‘legitimate information’ and categorically rejected the suggestion there had been an attempt to mislead the court.
    […]
    The council is currently refusing to reveal the wording of its ‘Highway Tree Replacement Policy’ contained in the contract on the grounds it is reviewing whether it can publish it at a later date.

    At the press conference, Mr Brooke said: “If that document [the strategy], as we suspect, was created in 2016 for publication but is dated as though it started in 2012, THERE ARE SERIOUS QUESTIONS ABOUT WHETHER THAT MAY PRESENT AN ISSUE OF MISLEADING THE COURT AND MISLEADING THE PUBLIC. We consider that to be a very serious matter.

    ‘My personal opinion is that document was PRODUCED IN ORDER TO PROVIDE POSITIVE EVIDENCE AT THE HIGH COURT JUDICIAL REVIEW Dillner case of each tree being assessed independently, there not being A TARGET FOR FELLING and each tree being considered on its merits. That resulted in the much-used phrase ‘trees are only felled as a last resort’.

    ‘My personal view is that was CREATED FOR THAT PURPOSE AND DID NOT EXIST IN 2012. In terms of then being able to identify the list of highway engineering solutions, eight of those are actually prohibited by the terms of the contract. So TO PRODUCE A DOCUMENT THAT LED THE PUBLIC TO BELIEVE THAT EACH TREE WAS ASSESSED AND LOOKED AT 14 HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS APPEARS TO BE A FABRICATION.’

    A council spokeswoman said:
    ‘There has been categorically no attempt to mislead the court by any council officers and we reject any such suggestion. All documents which were relied upon during court proceedings in 2016 were in existence and contained legitimate information to support the council’s case.’”

    *****
    Now see the SCC response (dated 13th August 2018) to a request about the ‘STREETS AHEAD FIVE YEAR TREE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY 2012 – 2017’ document, submitted under the Freedom of Information Act:
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/streets_ahead_five_year_tree_man_2#incoming-1210057

  4. Technotronic says:

    THE STAR – Tuesday, 10th March 2020

    ‘WE ARE COMMITTED TO BEING OPEN AND TRANSPARENT’ – SHEFFIELD COUNCIL RESPONDS TO CRITICISM OVER ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK RELEASE OF EMAILS ON CONTROVERSIAL TREE FELLING PLANS’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/we-are-committed-being-open-and-transparent-sheffield-council-responds-criticism-over-attempts-block-release-emails-controversial-tree-felling-plans-2444917

    http://web.archive.org/web/20200310141311/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/we-are-committed-being-open-and-transparent-sheffield-council-responds-criticism-over-attempts-block-release-emails-controversial-tree-felling-plans-2444917

    QUOTE:
    “SHEFFIELD COUNCIL HAS COMMENTED FOLLOWING CRITICISM ABOUT SENIOR MEMBERS BLOCKING EMAILS RELATED TO CONTROVERSIAL TREE FELLING FROM BEING RELEASED UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.
    […]

    It sparked outrage and THERE ARE NOW CALLS FOR AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION to look into the extent of the practice across the council and how IT MIGHT HAVE AFFECTED INFORMATION FROM BEING RELEASED.

    The authority responded more than a day and a half after being contacted. In a statement, EUGENE WALKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RESOURCES, SAID:

    ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL IS COMMITTED TO ENSURING IT IS OPEN AND TRANSPARENT and believes that access to information helps the public hold local authorities accountable for their actions whilst improving confidence and trust in decision making.

    The Freedom of Information Act provides a number of exemptions that can be applied to information such as personal, legal and commercial information as well as documents that support the policy formulation process.

    The applies these exemptions where appropriate. The exemptions used will always be thoroughly SCRUTINISED BY THE COUNCIL’S INTERNAL FOI TEAM when handling these requests, WHO WILL DEEM THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THE EXEMPTIONS USED in any given case.

    IN THIS CASE, OFFICERS MARKED SOME EMAILS WITH THE TERM ‘LEGALLY PRIVILEGED NOT SUBJECT TO FOI’ where they considered there might need to be a decision about future disclosure. We accept that, AS A RESULT, THERE WERE A NUMBER OF EMAILS THAT WERE INCORRECTLY MARKED, AND THAT WERE NEVER EXEMPT FROM RELEASE under Freedom of Information law. We are confident that our internal processes uphold the FOI law as set out by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.’

    But councillor Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Party, and others called it A ‘CLUMSY ATTEMPT TO WITHHOLD INFORMATION’, said it made it ‘obvious there is something they want to hide’ and that it showed A ‘CULTURE OF DISHONESTY’.”

    ******
    NOTE:

    The above news item was in response to an earlier news item in The Star, dated Thursday, 5th March 2020 – ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL MEMBERS ATTEMPTED TO BLOCK EMAILS ABOUT CONTROVERSIAL TREE FELLING PLANS FROM BEING RELEASED’:
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-council-members-attempted-block-emails-about-controversial-tree-felling-plans-being-released-2092120

    http://web.archive.org/web/20200306010023/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-council-members-attempted-block-emails-about-controversial-tree-felling-plans-being-released-2092120

    See:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/a-wild-christmas-cheer/comment-page-1/#comment-4132

    ******
    NOTE:

    • Since 3rd February 2016, there has been a Sheffield City Council policy commitment “to being open and transparent with the sheffield public ensuring all relevant information is available in the public domain”.

    • The SCC commitment – “to being open and transparent with the sheffield public ensuring all relevant information is available in the public domain” – was made during a meeting of full council, in response to a petition from the Nether Edge tree group (> 6,295 signatures). The minutes of the meeting can be accessed via the following links (the commitment is on page 23):
    http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/g6021/Printed%20minutes%20Wednesday%2003-Feb-2016%2014.00%20Council.pdf?T=1

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191104021401/http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/g6021/Printed%20minutes%20Wednesday%2003-Feb-2016%2014.00%20Council.pdf?T=1

    The SCC website is usually lists the petitions it receives that were debated at a meeting of full council. However, SCC has wilfully neglected to mention the Nether Edge petition:
    http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=154&MId=6021

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191104021342/http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=154&MId=6021

    *****
    OF INTEREST:

    GOOD RIDDANCE TO YEARS OF TOXIC LEADERSHIP & GROSS INCOMPETENCE, MISCONDUCT, MALADMINISTRATION & MALFEASANCE
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/good-news-and-bad-for-sheffields-street-trees/comment-page-1/#comment-4031

    ***
    IMPORTANT NEWS ARCHIVE (10th August 2017 to 19th October 2018)
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/sheffield-tree-campaign-back-in-the-national-news-in-the-guardian/#comment-2695

    ***
    ‘THE FELLING TARGET / QUOTA FOR THE £2.2BN ‘STREETS AHEAD’ HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE PROJECT (Amey PFI Contract)’
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/latest-from-deepa-and-the-trees-campaign/comment-page-1/#comment-4081

    ***
    THE STREET TREE FELLING QUOTA & PENALTIES (Billington):
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/a-wild-christmas-cheer/comment-page-1/#comment-3949

    ***
    ‘SHEFFIELD TREE FELLING INVESTIGATION REPORT’
    (by the Forestry Commission, dated 18th July 2019) – Selected extracts (follow the links):
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/breaking-news-leading-city-councillor-responsible-for-the-tree-felling-programme-has-resigned/comment-page-1/#comment-3744

    ***
    THE STAR – Thursday, 19th March 2020
    CORONAVIRUS: JULIE DORE TO STAY ON AS LEADER OF SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SO SHE CAN ‘BE HERE DURING DIFFICULT PERIOD’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-julie-dore-stay-leader-sheffield-council-so-she-can-be-here-during-difficult-period-2501974

    https://web.archive.org/web/20200319160310/https://www.thestar.co.uk/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-julie-dore-stay-leader-sheffield-council-so-she-can-be-here-during-difficult-period-2501974

  5. Technotronic says:

    NEWS – SEE SECRECY, SPIN & OBFUSCATION

    PART 1 of 3

    Sunday 1st May 2011
    ‘900K BILL IS SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SPENDING TOO MUCH ON PR’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/900k-bill-is-sheffield-council-spending-too-much-on-pr-1-3338205

    QUOTE:
    “The authority, which has its own in-house press and marketing team, splashed out £500,117.81 on marketing and £425,574.16 on PR firms during 2009/10, according to FIGURES RELEASED TO THE STAR UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.”

    *****
    18th January, 2014
    ‘1,200 SHEFFIELD TREES FACING THE CHOP’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/1-200-sheffield-trees-facing-the-chop-1-6377945

    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/1200-sheffield-trees-for-the-chop-as-local-people-protest/

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191103210320/https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/1200-sheffield-trees-for-the-chop-as-local-people-protest/

    QUOTE:
    “Figures obtained by The Star under the Freedom of Information Act reveal THE COUNCIL IS WORKING TO FELL 1,200 TREES FROM A STOCK OF 36,000 BY MARCH.”

    *****
    2nd August 2014
    ‘SPECIAL REPORT: RESIDENTS MOURN LOSS OF SHEFFIELD’S TREE-LINED STREETS’
    https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/special-report-residents-mourn-loss-of-sheffield-s-tree-lined-streets-1-6764433

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/special-report-residents-mourn-loss-of-sheffield-s-tree-lined-streets-1-6764433

    Sheffield’s first tree group – Save Our Rustlings Trees (later renamed Save Our Roadside Trees – SORT) – quoted this news item on page 51 of their letter dated 29th January 2016*, addressed to the SCC Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport:

    “On 2nd August, 2014, The Star newspaper reported:

    ‘Data obtained by The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign shows 576 OF THE TREES WERE FELLED BECAUSE THEY WERE CAUSING ‘IRREPARABLE DAMAGE OR OBSTRUCTION’ to roads or structures – NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE DEAD, DYING OR DISEASED.

    Nearly 600 healthy trees have been stripped from Sheffield streets in the past two years, The Star can reveal.

    Some 1,100 TREES HAVE BEEN CUT DOWN since the Streets Ahead contract to resurface streets, replace lights and improve pavements began.’”

    * https://1drv.ms/f/s!AsWguV74n6x7hRa_tJ6oC09M-dDS

    Click to access SORT%20LETTER%20TO%20THE%20CABINET%20MEMBER%20FOR%20ENVIRONMENT%20AND%20TRANSPORT_29th%20January%2c%202016_v51.6_Corrected_1.pdf

    *****
    Saturday, 29th August 2015
    ‘THE STAR SAYS: ANSWERS NEEDED ON TREE FELLING EVIDENCE AS SHEFFIELD ROW GROWS’
    https://web.archive.org/web/20150831021820/http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/the-star-says-answers-needed-on-tree-felling-evidence-as-sheffield-row-grows-1-7434200

    QUOTE:
    “Freedom of Information requests made by our reporters have answered questions on everything you can imagine…

    IT IS RARE FOR THESE REQUESTS TO COME BACK WITH AS LITTLE INFORMATION AS THE MOST RECENT ONE FROM SHEFFIELD COUNCIL, ABOUT HIGHWAYS AND TREES, following the major row over felling in recent weeks.

    The council refused to answer all but one of 11 questions posed…

    Funnily enough, THEIR FOI RESPONSE WAS THREE WEEKS LATER THAN IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN, so there was certainly plenty of time. […]

    But the main reason why reporter Ellen Beardmore submitted the request was to find out how many people with MOBILITY issues – the elderly, mums with prams, the disabled – had complained about being unable to use a road or pavement in Sheffield.

    It has been claimed this is the reason why some trees across Sheffield have to come down. LABOUR COUNCILLORS HAVE ARGUED ACCESS FOR SOME IS DIFFICULT PRECISELY BECAUSE OF BULGING TREE ROOTS, and the council had to meet its highway obligations, when the issue was debated in the town hall.”

    *****
    Monday, 18th December 2017
    ‘COMMITTEE LED BY SHEFFIELD MP CALLS FOR ‘CULTURAL CHANGE’ ON SCRUTINY PROCESS’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/committee-led-by-sheffield-mp-calls-for-cultural-change-on-scrutiny-process-1-8916603

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191130205209/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/committee-led-sheffield-mp-calls-cultural-change-scrutiny-process-440830

    QUOTE:
    “COUNCILS NEED A CULTURAL CHANGE TO ALLOW THE SCRUTINY PROCESS TO WORK PROPERLY, A PARLIAMENTARY REPORT LED BY A SHEFFIELD MP HAS RECOMMENDED.

    MPs on the COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE reviewed scrutiny arrangements, in which council committees question the authority’s cabinet on a range of issues as a way of holding them to account.

    Their report, entitled Effectiveness of Local Authority Overview and Scrutiny Committees, concluded that scrutiny was often held in low esteem with little influence on council policy.

    The committee made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the process.

    SHEFFIELD SOUTH EAST MP AND COMMITTEE CHAIR CLIVE BETTS SAID:

    ‘SCRUTINY IS MARGINALISED AT TOO MANY LOCAL AUTHORITIES, WHICH IN EXTREME CASES CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SEVERE SERVICE FAILURES, LETTING DOWN COUNCIL TAXPAYERS AND THOSE THAT RELY ON SERVICES.

    Only by rebalancing the system and ensuring scrutiny is held in high esteem will we see better decisions.’

    The report concluded a council’s organisational culture was the most significant factor in whether or not scrutiny was effective.

    The MPs said overview and scrutiny committees should report to full council meeting rather than to executives, and have access to financial and performance data without this being withheld due to claims of commercial sensitivity.

    IT CONDEMNED CASES WHERE SCRUTINY COMMITTEES HAD HAD TO SUBMIT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS TO THEIR OWN AUTHORITIES TO GET DATA.

    COMMITTEES SHOULD ALSO RECEIVE OFFICER SUPPORT OF EQUIVALENT EXPERTISE AND SENIORITY TO THAT AFFORDED TO CABINETS AND GAIN RIGHTS TO CALL WITNESSES, INCLUDING FROM OTHER PUBLIC BODIES AND COUNCIL CONTRACTORS.
    […]
    The Centre for Public Scrutiny called the report a ‘timely intervention.’

    Chief executive Jacqui McKinlay said:

    ‘The committee strongly points to the need for scrutiny to have equal access to impartial and independent advice including access to council officer time and information, this includes commercial information on council ventures.’”

    *****
    Wednesday, 31st January 2018
    ‘REVEALED: SHEFFIELD RESIDENTS LODGE MORE THAN 6000 COMPLAINTS AROUND TREE FELLING, WASTE MANAGEMENT AND OTHER GRIPES’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-sheffield-residents-lodge-more-than-6000-complaints-around-tree-felling-waste-management-and-other-gripes-1-8991496

    https://web.archive.org/web/20200301163013/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-sheffield-residents-lodge-more-6000-complaints-around-tree-felling-waste-management-and-other-gripes-438223

    QUOTE:
    “COMPLAINTS TO DO WITH SHEFFIELD COUNCIL’S STREETS AHEAD SCHEME – which includes the felling of thousands of city trees as part of a controversial roads maintenance programme – TOTALLED 4167 BETWEEN APRIL 2015 AND SEPTEMBER 2017.

    THIS WAS THE ISSUE THAT GOT RESIDENTS’ BACKS UP THE MOST AND ACCOUNTED FOR ABOUT TWO-THIRDS OF ALL COMPLAINTS LODGED with Sheffield Council or council partners by members of the public.
    […]
    However, Sheffield Council stressed that the Streets Ahead scheme encompasses a wide range of services and when the figures are broken down the number of complaints about tree maintenance specifically numbers less than 400.

    But the figures have only served to strengthen campaigner’s resolve to call for the programme to be axed.
    […]
    The dispute over trees has its roots in a £2 billion private finance initiative agreement between THE COUNCIL AND AMEY TO FELL AND REPLACE AROUND 6000 TREES on city streets. The council says they are being removed because they are diseased or dangerous, but protesters say many of the trees are healthy and should remain.

    THE FIGURES WERE REVEALED AS PART OF A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST TO THE AUTHORITY.

    In total, 6364 complaints were made to 21 council departments or authority partner’s such as Amey or Veolia.

    Aside from Streets Ahead, complaints to do with waste management handled by Veolia were the second highest with 655 registered gripes. Issues with adult social care was next with 385 complaints.
    […]
    A SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SPOKESWOMAN SAID…
    […]
    ‘THE COUNCIL RECOGNISES THAT ON A CONTRACT OF THIS SIZE (STREETS AHEAD), CUSTOMER CONTACTS OF THIS LEVEL ARE TO BE EXPECTED, particularly during the initial five year contract period between 2012 and 2017 when a significant amount of work is taking place across the city, including the replacement of 68, 000 street lights.’

    She added people simply requesting information about works are sometimes registered as complaints.

    THE SPOKESWOMAN SAID THE 4167 ISSUES RAISED AROUND STREETS AHEAD INCLUDED 369 ABOUT TREE MAINTENANCE, 123 ABOUT ROAD MAINTENANCE and 111 about street cleaning such as dog fouling. THERE WERE 1, 414 CASES TO DO WITH STREET LIGHTING.

    Veolia did not reply to our requests for comment.

    TABLE:
    Total number of complaints to Sheffield Council/council partners between April 2015 and September 2017 – 6364

    COMPLAINTS REGARDING STREETS AHEAD BETWEEN APRIL 2015 AND SEPTEMBER 2017 – 4167

    Complaints regarding Veolia between April 2015 and September 2017 – 655

    Complaints regarding adult social care between April 2015 and September 2017 – 385.”

    *****
    22nd February 2018
    ‘CUT POLITICAL SPIN FROM SHEFFIELD TOWN HALL’ (EW – SGP)
    https://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2018/02/22/cut-political-spin-from-sheffield-town-hall/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20191203033047/https://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2018/02/22/cut-political-spin-from-sheffield-town-hall/

    QUOTE:
    “The Green group budget amendment for 2017/18 included this: ‘Cut political spin from the Town Hall and will cut the posts of Group Policy Officers’. These 3 officers are paid by the Council but do research and press work for the Labour and Lib Dem groups. That amendment was rejected by the majority vote of Labour councillors.

    SINCE THE PRE-DAWN RAID ON RUSTLINGS RD IN NOVEMBER 2016 WE HAVE SEEN THE LABOUR SPIN DOCTORS GO INTO OVERDRIVE. ‘Trees are only replaced as a last resort’ is trotted out again and again despite clear evidence to the contrary. WE SEE MORE AND MORE ATTEMPTS TO DEFAME AND DERIDE TREE CAMPAIGNERS WITH MANY UNSUBSTANTIATED AND UNTRUTHFUL CLAIMS. In October, a judge rejected the Council’s attempt to send Cllr Alison Teal to jail. The court found she had not broken the injunction and the council were wrong. A Freedom of Information request has since uncovered e-mails showing that COUNCIL OFFICERS CONSPIRED TO SPIN THE CASE DISMISSAL AS ‘ON A TECHNICALITY.’

    Continued below…

  6. Technotronic says:

    NEWS – SEE SECRECY, SPIN & OBFUSCATION

    PART 2 of 3

    Saturday, 10th March 2018
    ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL FORCED TO REVEAL TARGET TO REMOVE 17,500 STREET TREES UNDER PFI DEAL’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/our-towns-and-cities/sheffield/sheffield-council-forced-to-reveal-target-to-remove-17-500-street-trees-under-pfi-deal-1-9056942

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191123032550/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-council-forced-reveal-target-remove-17500-street-trees-under-pfi-deal-49158

    QUOTE:
    “SHEFFIELD COUNCIL HAS BEEN FORCED TO REVEAL a hugely-controversial PFI highways maintenance contract contains A TARGET TO CUT DOWN ALMOST HALF OF THE CITY’S 36,000 STREET TREES and replace them with saplings.

    The battle to save Sheffield’s trees: Six years on and the fight continues… here’s what you need to know

    Information has been published following a year-long battle by campaigners for non-commercially sensitive parts of the 25-year contract with private company Amey to put placed in the public domain.

    The council has previously insisted in Freedom of Information responses that there was no target for tree removal but the new information has come to light after THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER ORDERED THE PUBLICATION OF THE PREVIOUSLY-REDACTED SECTIONS OF THE CONTRACT. The council had claimed it intended to publish the information at a future date but last month THE COMMISSIONER WARNED THE AUTHORITY IT COULD FACE LEGAL ACTION UNLESS IT PUBLISHED THE INFORMATION WITHIN 35 DAYS.

    One passage of the newly-published information states:

    ‘The service provider [Amey] shall replace highway trees in accordance with the annual tree management programme AT A RATE OF NOT LESS THAN 200 PER YEAR so that 17,500 HIGHWAY TREES ARE REPLACED BY THE END OF THE TERM, such replacement to be in accordance with the Highway Tree Replacement Policy, unless authority [Sheffield Council] approval has been obtained for deviation from this policy.’

    In a statement issued by Sheffield Council, cabinet member for environment Bryan Lodge today said it ‘remains difficult’ to estimate how many trees will be felled over the lifetime of the contract and ‘any suggestion that 17,500 trees is a target or a requirement is an incorrect interpretation of the contract’. THE COUNCIL HAS SUGGESTED IT CURRENTLY ESTIMATES AROUND 10,000 TREES WILL BE REPLACED over the course of the contract.
    […]
    THE COUNCIL AND AMEY HAVE PREVIOUSLY SAID AROUND 6,000 TREES WERE GOING TO BE CUT DOWN and replaced with saplings OVER THE FIRST FIVE YEARS OF THE CONTRACT, which started in 2012.”

    *****
    Friday, 20th April 2018
    ‘SHEFFIELD TREE FELLING COST POLICE £47K IN OVERTIME IN LESS THAN A MONTH’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-tree-felling-cost-police-47k-in-overtime-in-less-than-a-month-1-9127654

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191122185510/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-tree-felling-cost-police-aps47k-overtime-less-month-436149

    QUOTE:
    “Additional policing to cover campaigners attempting to prevent controversial tree felling in Sheffield cost South Yorkshire Police £47,000 in overtime in less than a month, the force has revealed.

    Speaking at a meeting called by STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Groups) today (Friday, April 20), Superintendent Paul McCurry and DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE MARK ROBERTS said the figure covered additional police resources to cover protests FROM FEBRUARY 26 TO MARCH 23 THIS YEAR, when the controversial programme was temporarily suspended.

    The figure equates to almost two full-time probationary police officers.

    No exact figures were made available ON THE NUMBER OF TREES FELLED OVER THE PERIOD by Sheffield City Council and their contractors Amey, but STAG said they estimated that NO MORE THAN 20 TREES WERE REMOVED BY CONTRACTORS.

    IF THE SAME POLICE PRESENCE IS REQUIRED TO REMOVE THE 300 TREES THE COUNCIL AND AMEY ARE UNDERSTOOD TO BE IMMEDIATELY TARGETING, and trees are removed at the same rate, THE POLICING OVERTIME BILL WOULD BE IN THE REGION OF £705,000 – ENOUGH TO EMPLOY 29 ADDITIONAL POLICE OFFICERS IN SOUTH YORKSHIRE.

    Supt McCurry said:
    ‘To put this into context, what we always try to do is only use officers in duty time, but the actual cost of the operation is £47,000 – that’s in terms of overtime – and we’ve sent that information to the accountability board and the police and crime commissioner. WHAT THAT DOESN’T TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION IS THAT OFFICERS USED IN DUTY TIME are not available for other duties.’

    Mr Roberts added:
    ‘Money we spend on this is money we can’t spend on something else. In terms of whether this is sustainable, our core responsibility is to keep people safe. We’d sooner not have this charge but it’s not something we can seek to wriggle out of.’

    STAG co-chairman Chris Rust also told the meeting that their solicitors had written to Sheffield City Council threatening a second judicial review, after FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS REVEALED THAT AMEY HAD FAILED TO DISCLOSE HEALTH AND SAFETY PROBLEMS WHEN BIDDING FOR THE CONTRACT WITH SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL.

    *****
    Wednesday, 9th May 2018
    ‘REVEALED: SHEFFIELD COUNCIL REFUSES TO PROVIDE DETAILS TO NEARLY 900 FOI REQUESTS IN THREE YEARS’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-sheffield-council-refuses-provide-details-nearly-900-foi-requests-three-years-435597

    https://web.archive.org/web/20180509170336/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-sheffield-council-refuses-to-provide-details-to-nearly-900-foi-requests-in-three-years-1-9155434

    QUOTE:
    “AN INTERNAL REVIEW HAS NOW BEEN LAUNCHED over how the council handles the publication and broadcasting of information following pressure from councillors.

    A motion put forward by Dore and Totley councillor Martin Smith at a full council meeting in March alleged THE AUTHORITY’S FAILURE TO DISCLOSE INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC ‘DEMONSTRATES A WORRYING TREND TOWARDS SECRECY’.

    Today he said:

    ‘For me the figures are shocking. This is about citizens being able to get access to the information they are entitled to.

    With no transparency, then there is no trust from the public.’

    JOHN O’CONNELL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE AT THE TAXPAYERS’ ALLIANCE SAID:

    ‘IT IS UTTERLY UNACCEPTABLE FOR A COUNCIL NOT TO RESPOND TO FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS.

    THESE ARE ESSENTIAL FOR JOURNALISTS TO HOLD COUNCILS TO ACCOUNT AND FOR TAXPAYERS TO JUDGE WHETHER THEIR MONEY IS BEING WELL-SPENT.

    THE COUNCIL SHOULD RECTIFY THIS IMMEDIATELY, EVEN IF THE RESULTS MAKE FOR EMBARRASSING READING.’

    The Freedom of Information Act was introduced in 2005 with the aim of giving members of the public a ‘right of access’ to information held by public authorities.

    Figures revealed SHEFFIELD COUNCIL RECEIVED 5843 FOI REQUESTS IN 2015, 2016 AND THE FINANCIAL YEAR 2017/18.

    A total of 895 received a full refusal and a further 934 were partially refused.

    The authority gave a full reply and provided details on 3449 occasions.

    A small percentage of requests were not answered in full because there was ‘no information held’, ‘clarification not provided’, ‘no data held’ the request was ‘withdrawn’ or the authority had only just received the request and was in the process of responding.

    A motion, tabled at a full council meeting on March 28, claimed OPPOSITION COUNCILLORS HAVE BEEN CAMPAIGNING FOR NEARLY TWO YEARS TO SEE AGREEMENTS MADE BETWEEN THE COUNCIL AND CHINESE BUILDING FIRM SICHUAN GUODONG CONSTRUCTION AS PART OF THEIR £1 BILLION DEAL TO BUILD DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CITY OVER THE NEXT 60 YEARS.

    The motion also alleged that FIVE YEARS AFTER BEING SIGNED, OPPOSITION COUNCILLORS HAVE STILL NOT SEEN AN UN-REDACTED COPY OF THE £2.2 BILLION PFI CONTRACT BETWEEN THE AUTHORITY AND AMEY FOR THE STREETS AHEAD CONTRACT TO MAINTAIN THE CITY’S HIGHWAYS FOR THE NEXT 25 YEARS.

    There were also calls for the council to start broadcasting meetings like
    authorities in Leeds and Manchester do.

    A cross party group is currently undertaking a review of how full council meetings operate, which includes the possibility of broadcasting debates.

    A Sheffield Council spokesperson said a number of amendments were made to the motion.

    Documents show OPPOSITION COUNCILLORS HAVE BEEN OFFERED THE CHANCE TO REVIEW THE STREETS AHEAD CONTRACT BUT THIS HAS NOT YET BEEN TAKEN UP.

    In addition, THE AUTHORITY STRESSED THAT SOME ELEMENTS OF CONTRACTS HAVE TO BE REDACTED DUE TO ‘COMMERCIAL SENSITIVITY’.

    GILLIAN DUCKWORTH, COUNCIL MONITORING OFFICER, said:

    ‘We respond to all freedom of information requests and provide the information we can WHEREVER POSSIBLE.

    In a minority of cases we are unable to provide all the information which has been asked for, either because the information already exists on another website for example; or we may have to exclude personal information; the request may take longer than 18 hours of officer time (cost limit); or we may need protect the commercial interests of the council or another organisation.’

    TABLE:

    Totals for the three year period

    Total requests – 5843

    Full refusals – 895

    Part refusals – 934

    Full disclosure – 3449”

    *****
    Thursday, 31st May 2018
    ‘REVEALED: SHEFFIELD COUNCIL REFUSE OVER A THIRD OF AMEY-RELATED FOI REQUESTS’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-sheffield-council-refuse-over-third-amey-related-foi-requests-434926

    http://web.archive.org/web/20200207184821/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-sheffield-council-refuse-over-third-amey-related-foi-requests-434926

    QUOTE:
    “SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL REFUSED TO PROVIDE DETAILS FOR MORE THAN A THIRD OF REQUESTS RELATING TO THEIR CONTRACT WITH AMEY AND TREE FELLING IN THE PAST THREE YEARS.

    THERE WERE A TOTAL OF 472 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS RELATING TO TREES, the controversial Streets Ahead contract and Amey submitted to the council during that time period. OF THOSE, 180 WERE FULLY OR PARTLY DECLINED.

    Opposition councillors have often criticised the ruling Labour group for their ‘LACK OF TRANSPARENCY’.

    They have also been accused of being SECRETIVE about their dealings with Chinese investors and LAGGING BEHIND OTHER AUTHORITIES LIKE ROTHERHAM and Leeds for not broadcasting meetings.
    […]
    The Freedom of Information Act 2000 was introduced in 2005 for the public to access information held by public authorities.

    Over the past three years the number of requests about the controversial contract had increased, along with partial and full refusals.

    Authorities are able to refuse requests under certain exemptions. In these cases, THE MAIN REASONS FOR REFUSAL WERE THAT ‘COST EXCEEDED THE LIMIT’, REQUESTS WERE ‘VEXATIOUS’, THE INFORMATION WAS ‘ACCESSIBLE BY OTHER MEANS’ AND DETAILS WERE ‘PERSONAL’ OR ‘CONFIDENTIAL’.

    In total, 5,843 requests were made to Sheffield Council in the past three years, of which 895 were declined.

    MARK JONES, SENIOR INFORMATION OFFICER AT SHEFFIELD COUNCIL, said:

    ‘Where an FOI or part of an FOI request is refused we always specify the exemptions in question, and explain why they apply.’

    Read the full list of Amey-related FOI figures:

    TOTALS FOR THREE YEAR PERIOD:

    2018
    Requests: 193
    FULL REFUSALS: 25
    Part refusals: 47
    Full disclosure: 90

    2017
    Requests: 157
    FULL REFUSALS: 29
    Part refusals: 21
    Full disclosure: 96

    2016
    Requests: 122
    FULL REFUSALS: 43
    Part refusals: 15
    Full disclosure: 56”

    Continued below…

  7. Technotronic says:

    NEWS – SEE SECRECY, SPIN & OBFUSCATION

    PART 3 of 3

    Monday, 3rd September 2018
    ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SPENDS £400,000 ON LEGAL BATTLES WITH TREE CAMPAIGNERS’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-council-spends-aps400000-legal-battles-tree-campaigners-45336

    https://web.archive.org/web/20200112233953/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-council-spends-aps400000-legal-battles-tree-campaigners-45336

    QUOTE:
    “Sheffield Council has spent more than £400,000 pursuing legal action against anti tree-felling campaigners in the city, it has been revealed.

    A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION RESPONSE to BBC Radio Sheffield SAID OVER £413,000 HAS BEEN SPENT IN RELATION TO A SERIES OF LEGAL PROCEEDINGS connected to the Streets Ahead highways maintenance contract it has held with Amey since 2012.

    The BBC reported that the council says it is due to get about £70,000 of the money back through reclaiming court costs from campaigners.
    […]
    THE COUNCIL HAS SPENT AROUND £320,000 ON BARRISTERS’ FEES, AS WELL AS OVER £100,000 IN FIGHTING AGAINST AN ATTEMPTED JUDICIAL REVIEW INTO THE LEGALITY OF THE PROGRAMME IN 2016. In March of that, a judge ruled that a request for a full judicial review was ‘devoid of merit’
    […]
    IN JUNE, IT WAS REVEALED SHEFFIELD COUNCIL HAD PAID £700,000 IN COMPENSATION TO ITS HIGHWAYS MAINTENANCE CONTRACTOR AMEY for work delays caused by its decision to set up an independent panel to advise on its tree-felling strategy – whose expert recommendations to save trees were then mainly rejected.

    A FURTHER £130,000 WAS ALSO SPENT ON THE PANEL’S RUNNING COSTS. Last summer, it was revealed that where the panel had recommended trees were saved, the council rejected the advice on 223 occasions and accepted in only 73 cases.”

    *****
    18th July 2019 (Forestry Commission)
    SHEFFIELD TREE FELLING INVESTIGATION REPORT – SELECTED EXTRACTS
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/statement_to_the_media_respondin#comment-89117

    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/breaking-news-leading-city-councillor-responsible-for-the-tree-felling-programme-has-resigned/comment-page-1/#comment-3744

    QUOTE:
    Page 2:
    “SCC HAVE CONSISTENTLY CLAIMED THAT ALL FELLING CONDUCTED UNDER THE STREETS AHEAD PROGRAMME IS IN RESPONSE TO ITS STATUTORY DUTY UNDER THE HIGHWAYS ACT 1980 (the Highways Act) – to maintain the public highway, and the Equality Act 2010 (the Equality Act) – to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of disabled people.

    THE FC WAS CONTENT TO ACCEPT THIS CLAIM AS VALID UNTIL THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT BETWEEN SCC AND AMEY WAS MADE PUBLIC IN EARLY 2018. IT WAS AT THIS POINT THAT THE COMMITMENT TO FELL 200 TREES PER ANNUM WAS REVEALED.

    This commitment left open the possibility that those trees were not felled in response to a statutory duty, but as a result of a contractual agreement and SCC policy decision. As such, THERE WAS A CREDIBLE POSSIBILITY THAT A FELLING LICENCE MAY HAVE BEEN REQUIRED. Therefore, in April 2018 the FC began an assessment of alleged illegal felling in relation to the Streets Ahead programme to determine whether a breach in the felling licence regime had occurred.

    As the felling had occurred over several years, and NO EVIDENCE WAS LEFT AT THE VARIOUS FELLING SITES, the FC assessment focused largely on reviewing historic photographic and ‘GOOGLE STREETVIEW’ EVIDENCE. This evidence was assessed in order to determine if an exception to the need for a licence could reasonably be established for the trees in question.

    Having reviewed the photographic evidence for a significant sample of tree felling records, the FC has concluded that, on balance, there is insufficient evidence to say with confidence that an offence of felling without a felling licence has been committed by SCC and Amey.

    HOWEVER, THE FC HAS IDENTIFIED A NUMBER OF AREAS REGARDING THE STREETS AHEAD PROGRAMME WHERE SCC HAS FALLEN FAR SHORT OF GOOD PRACTICE. THESE INCLUDE RECORD KEEPING, ENGAGEMENT AND CONSULTATION, TREE MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES AND CONTRACT MANAGEMENT.

    FC believes SCC, and other LOCAL AUTHORITIES, MUST TAKE NOTE of these lessons learnt for future operations.”

    ***
    “THE FC WROTE TO SCC on 26 MARCH 2018
    requesting any documentary evidence held to support the proposition of SCC that the felled trees had been assessed as causing the highway to fall into a state of disrepair and therefore that the exceptions to the felling licence regulations were being appropriately applied. THE COUNCIL FAILED TO RESPOND TO THIS REQUEST FOR SUCH EVIDENCE.

    THE FC THEREFORE TOOK THE DECISION TO UNDERTAKE AN ALLEGED ILLEGAL FELLING ASSESSMENT of the Streets Ahead programme.

    THE ASSESSMENT WAS FORMALLY STARTED ON THE 19 APRIL 2018 with correspondence to both SCC and Amey.

    That correspondence included A REQUEST TO SUSPEND ALL TREE FELLING OF STREET TREES IN SHEFFIELD that SCC was responsible for UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE excepting the need to fell trees which pose an immediate danger to the public.

    Following several rounds of correspondence, during which SCC REPEATEDLY FAILED TO PROVIDE THE INFORMATION REQUESTED BY THE FC in their letter of 26 March 2018, the FC made a formal request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 for that information stating that a response would be expected by 25 May 2018 or that a formal complaint would be made to the Information Commissioner.”

    SOURCE:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alleged-illegal-tree-felling-investigation-report-sheffields-streets-ahead-programme

    http://web.archive.org/web/20190724045225/https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alleged-illegal-tree-felling-investigation-report-sheffields-streets-ahead-programme

    *****
    Thursday, 1st August 2019
    ‘MORE THAN 1,000 PEOPLE PETITION AGAINST WEED KILLER’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/more-1000-people-petition-against-weed-killer-487773

    http://web.archive.org/web/20200314231439/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/more-1000-people-petition-against-weed-killer-487773

    QUOTE:
    “More than 1,000 people have signed a petition against weed killer
    Extinction Rebellion activist Graham Wroe submitted A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST WHICH FOUND THE COUNCIL USED 1,750 LITRES OF GLYPHOSATE LAST YEAR ON SHEFFIELD’S PAVEMENTS, verges and parks. “

    *****
    October 2019
    ‘BINS NOT SPIN: LOCAL AUTHORITY SPENDING ON SPEECHES AND PRESS OFFICERS’
    (By Scott Simmons – Tax Payer’s Alliance)
    https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/taxpayersalliance/pages/16732/attachments/original/1571408924/Local_authority_spending_on_speeches_and_press_officers.pdf?1571408924

    https://web.archive.org/web/20200109163540/https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/taxpayersalliance/pages/16732/attachments/original/1571408924/Local_authority_spending_on_speeches_and_press_officers.pdf?1571408924

    OF INTEREST:

    • 30th October 2019:
    ‘Harry Fone: Sheffield City Council employs 24 press officers’
    https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2019/10/harry-fone-sheffield-city-council-employs-24-press-officers.html

    https://web.archive.org/web/20191105045546/https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2019/10/harry-fone-sheffield-city-council-employs-24-press-officers.html

    QUOTE:
    “Across the UK, 24 councils employed 10 or more press officers last year.
    SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL TOPPED THE LIST WITH 24 PRESS OFFICERS, WHICH IS ONLY ONE LESS THAN THE DEPARTMENT FOR EXITING THE EUROPEAN UNION DURING THE SAME PERIOD.”

    • A Sheffield City Council Freedom of Information response (Reference: FOI / 1667), dated 15th February 2018 (in response to an enquiry submitted by Marcus Crombie)
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/external_pr_marketing_and_commun#incoming-1112960

    QUOTE:
    “Please find below, Sheffield City Council’s response to your request:

    1) The amount of times Sheffield City Council has hired the external
    services of Public Relations and Marketing companies (including press
    officers, publicity and promotion campaigns, PR guru’s, crisis management
    and public relation firms) from August 2017 – Present date .

    1.1) When they were hired and for how long they were hired

    * Band of Birds, digital marketing campaign for Outdoor City Weekender,
    appointed January 2018. £13k

    * Joi Polloi, Channel 4 ‘bid’ document and video. £10k appointed,
    October 2018.”

    *****
    Thursday, 5th March 2020
    ‘SHEFFIELD COUNCIL MEMBERS ATTEMPTED TO BLOCK EMAILS ABOUT CONTROVERSIAL TREE FELLING PLANS FROM BEING RELEASED’
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/a-wild-christmas-cheer/comment-page-1/#comment-4132

    *****
    Tuesday, 10th March 2020
    ‘WE ARE COMMITTED TO BEING OPEN AND TRANSPARENT’ – SHEFFIELD COUNCIL RESPONDS TO CRITICISM OVER ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK RELEASE OF EMAILS ON CONTROVERSIAL TREE FELLING PLANS
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/a-review-of-some-publications-from-the-past/comment-page-1/#comment-4133

    *****
    Monday, 16th March 2020
    ‘THIS IS HOW SHEFFIELD COUNCIL MEETINGS COULD CHANGE IN WAKE OF STRICTER MEASURES BROUGHT IN TO TACKLE CORONAVIRUS’
    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/how-sheffield-council-meetings-could-change-wake-stricter-measures-brought-tackle-coronavirus-2476548

    http://web.archive.org/web/20200317141512/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/how-sheffield-council-meetings-could-change-wake-stricter-measures-brought-tackle-coronavirus-2476548

    Printed on 18th March 2020, as ‘ Council meetings may be held by video’:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ItsOurCitySheffield/permalink/501758300458131/

    QUOTE:
    “Talks are underway about council meetings at Sheffield Town Hall now stricter MEASURES HAVE BEEN BROUGHT IN TO TACKLE CORONAVIRUS.

    In a briefing held on Monday, March 16 Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked members of the public to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and to work from home if possible in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

    Avoiding unnecessary social contact was particularly important for the over 70s and pregnant women, said Mr Johnson.

    THE LOCAL ELECTIONS HAVE ALREADY BEEN POSTPONED TO 2021 AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER ROBERT JENRICK HAS NOW ANNOUNCED SOME NEW CHANGES TO HOW COUNCILS OPERATE.

    Ofsted inspections will be deferred while FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS WILL BE ABANDONED OR HAVE THE TIME LIMIT TO RESPOND EXTENDED.

    The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils nationwide, is asking the government to look at the flexibility and accessibility of council meetings.

    In Sheffield, the majority of meetings are webcast and one OPTION WOULD BE TO USE VIDEO CONFERENCING INSTEAD OF FACE TO FACE MEETINGS. But the details are unclear – would this depend on individual councillors having the technology at home? And would members of the public be able to view the meetings?

    THE PLANNING BOARD – WHICH OFTEN ATTRACTS THE MOST MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC AND DEALS WITH THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS – IS THE ONE MEETING AT SHEFFIELD WHICH IS NOT WEBCAST.

    Liberal Democrat Leader Shaffaq Mohammed has requested a meeting with chief executive Charlie Adan to ask that April’s full council is cancelled.

    THERE ARE LEGAL ISSUES AROUND HOW COUNCIL DECISIONS ARE MADE. IT IS CURRENTLY GOVERNED BY EACH COUNCIL’S CONSTITUTION AND STANDING ORDERS and each council’s decision-making processes will be different. But CURRENT LEGISLATION MEANS THAT COUNCILLORS CAN ONLY ENGAGE AND VOTE AT ANY MEETING IF THEY ARE THERE IN PERSON.

    The LGA says it has already registered the issue of councillors unable to participate in meetings unless they are present.

    THERE ARE CERTAIN ISSUES, SUCH AS SETTING THE BUDGET, THAT CAN ONLY BE DECIDED BY FULL COUNCIL. OTHER DECISIONS COULD BE DELEGATED TO OFFICERS OR THE CABINET.

    The government says it will consider bringing forward legislation to allow committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s