Is this Sheffield’s most contested seat in the local elections?

Up and beyond Sheffield’s Steel Bank, lies the Crookes and Crosspool ward – home to beautiful stone houses, a barrage of trendy vegan cafes, a burgeoning student population and tree-lined streets.

Over the years, the area has switched back and forth between Liberal Democrats and Labour control although currently two out of three of its councillors are Labour.

Ahead of Thursday’s local elections, however, posting in a closed Labour group, Lee Rock, a candidate for Dore and Totley, said: “it’s all hands to Crookes and Crosspool” suggesting inner-circle fears that the Labour candidate for the area, Craig Gamble Pugh, could lose his seat.

With predictions that Labour could lose their majority over the tree felling that has caught the attention of the national press, here’s a guide to city’s most contested seat:

Who are the candidates?

Craig Gamble Pough, Labour Co-op.

Mohammed Mahroof, Liberal Democrat.

Theo Routh, Green.

Alexandra Boman-Flavell, Conservative.

What are the main issues?

While the tree felling under Sheffield City Council’s contract with Amey which has already seen 6,000 trees axed may not be at the forefront of every voter’s mind – Crookes is an area with a considerable amount of trees deemed either diseased, dying, dead or damaging under the programme. It’s also home to Western Road where residents are fighting to save more than 40 memorial trees facing the chop. Craig Gamble Pugh, says he’s received hundreds of messages of concern over the issue from constituents during the two years he has been a Labour councillor. It’s also a hot topic for candidates from other parties who see this as a great opportunity to take back some control. Mohammed Mahroof, who is also a chartered surveyor, says that his first port of call should he become a councillor would be to renegotiate the contract.

Aside from environmental issues, are those that tie in more with the national consensus. On a local level, funding cuts mean that the minor injuries unit may be lost at the Royal Hallamshire hospital and £350 per pupil in schools could potentially be lost – issues which are likely to be close to everyone’s hearts, rather than just those with an eco-friendly ethos. These cuts have caused a lot of contention in Sheffield according to Gamble Pugh who said: “people don’t understand that council’s like Sheffield have had 50 per cent plus of their government funding cut whereas other Tory-run councils in the South-East have had zero cuts so it’s not been fair and equitable across the board. There’s a lot of demand, a lot of need, a lot of poverty in Sheffield.”

The Liberal Democrat and Green party candidates for Crookes and Crosspool have also both mentioned housing – particularly the need for better affordable student housing – as an issue in their campaigns.

Who will win?

Conservatives have little momentum in the whole of Sheffield, only gaining 6.1 per cent of the vote in the 2016 local elections, but even less so in Crookes and Crosspool where the average vote for Tory candidates was 2.1 per cent. According to a source, the Greens and Lib Dems in Sheffield have an unofficial agreement not to canvass where the other has the stongest chance – the real competition here is between the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

In the 2016 local elections, the results for the area were neck and neck:  Labour’s Anne Murphy gained 34.5 per cent of the votes and the Liberal Democrats candidate Adam Hanrahan gained 32.7 per cent. With resentment towards the Labour-majority council riding high amongst those who contest the tree felling, there is a chance that Craig Gamble Pugh – the Labour councillor who is re-running for his seat – could see defeat on Thursday. And, as the Green candidate gained only 17.5 per cent of the vote in the 2016 elections, it is safe to say that Mohammad Mahroof, the Lib Dem candidate is Gamble Pugh’s strongest opponent.

What will be the implications?

As local elections work on a triennial basis – meaning that only a third of councillors are elected at each local election – even if Labour lost seats this year, including in Crookes and Crosspool, they would still hold the majority of seats in Sheffield. However, even the loss of seats in the 11 contested areas across the city could send a strong message to the party.

As Routh points out: “A strong swing away from Labour is hopefully going to be a big wake-up call for Labour councillors who I’ve heard are sympathetic, to actually stand up and do something. Get rid of Julie the Dore as the leader and put a council in place that is going to listen.”