In Focus: All change

10th May 2011 Yorkshire

In Focus: All change

There was a landmark moment in the history of the coalition government last week, when the electorate in Nick Clegg’s home constituency city gave his Liberal Democrat party a resounding thumbs-down in the local council elections.

Councillor Paul Scriven and his Lib Dem colleagues in Sheffield City Council now face a spell on the political sidelines as the Labour party surged to a clear majority in Town Hall, mirroring a shift in council make-ups across Yorkshire.

Scriven has been, and will continue to be, an excellent ambassador for Sheffield. He speaks eloquently and persuasively about the city.

He was, however, something of a curate’s egg among Sheffield’s business leaders. One South Yorkshire chief executive I interviewed earlier this year spent the best part of ten minutes lambasting Scriven for an ill-judged appearance in a promotional video for the city’s Mercure St Pauls hotel, which was also a venue for his party’s national conference in March.

Labour’s control of Sheffield council will bring some much-needed stability to the chamber, which will be welcomed by the business community. Regardless of whether you are left-leaning, new leader Julie Dore has a clear mandate that won’t be clouded by in-fighting. In a time of economic uncertainty, that is no bad thing.

Steve Brailey, chief executive of Sheffield International Venues, told Insider in an interview conducted just days before the election: “Having a majority party would give us some consistency and some long term planning. I don’t care which party it is, I just want one to be in charge.”

In Leeds, there was a swing to Labour, as it increased its representation on the city council in a move that leader Keith Wakefield described as way beyond his expectations.

But probably the biggest shock of the night was the departure of Hull City Council’s Liberal Democrat leader Carl Minns, who even suffered the ignominy of losing his seat. Minns, a fierce critic of plans for a pan-Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, told reporters he will now “get a job”.

Stable councils will become ever-more important as the government continues to place an emphasis on localism. If city regions, via their Local Enterprise Partnerships, are to compete robustly for economic growth funding, then there needs to be a coherent and single vision from the public sector .

At a time when the buzz word of the day is ‘collaboration’, the new councillors and administrations will need to get businesses onside as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they could face the same fate of so many Lib Dems last week.

Any comments? Richard Abbott, Insider

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