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Independent Tree Inquiry – what’s next?

Street trees in Sheffield

Following the historic signing of the Co-operative Agreement between the Labour and Green Groups, and the first Co-operative Executive meeting on 9 June, Sheffield City Council is moving forward with the independent inquiry into the management of the street trees dispute.

The purpose of this inquiry is to investigate and understand what happened and why, and to begin rebuilding trusting relationships between the Council and residents.

Ryan Keyworth, the Council’s Director of Finance and Commercial Services has been appointed to lead the initial stages of this work. Ryan re-joined the Council in April 2019 having previously worked for the Council from 2005-2010 and has had no prior involvement in the issues connected to the Inquiry.

The first step in this Inquiry will be to recruit external, independent legal advisers and to appoint an independent Chair for the Inquiry - this chair will be appointed via an open recruitment process.

The Council will consult with stakeholders on the draft person specification for the Chair’s role and the process the Council will follow. The Inquiry Chair will:

  • Have an understanding of the basic principles of local government
  • Have suitable senior leadership experience
  • Have a strong track record of working in a way that is consistent with the intentions of this Inquiry
  • Be neutral and acceptable to all parties

Councillor Julie Grocutt, Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council, said:

“I’m very keen to get going with the Independent Inquiry so we can be clear as a Council as to where we went wrong, not only is this important for us, but for our residents too.

“We’re committed to learning and improving and strengthening our relationships with our partners so that we can once again, instil confidence in your council."

Councillor Douglas Johnson, Executive Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport said:

“It is a clear decision that a street tree inquiry needs to go ahead without delay. This is an important moment for the council to learn and reflect and shape how things will be done in the future.

“To ensure independence, it is vital to appoint an Inquiry Chair as soon as possible and ask that person to lead a process of defining the terms of reference. The Council commits to being fully co-operative with the inquiry once the independent chair is appointed.”

Once appointed, the Independent Chair will work with the external legal advisors and all stakeholders, including the Council, to develop and publish the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry.  Once finalised, these will be formally approved by the Co-operative Executive, and the Chair will proceed with the Inquiry. 

From this point on Sheffield City Council will leave the Chair to conduct the Inquiry, providing support and evidence to the Inquiry as requested by the Chair.  The Co-operative Executive will receive, publish, and respond to the Inquiry’s final report and recommendations.

The Council is in the process of arranging in person and virtual meetings at which members of the public will have the opportunity to be briefed on plans in more detail and to ask questions.

Those who would like to participate in these sessions can register their interest by emailing

Known stakeholder groups and interested parties will be contacted directly once these dates are set.