About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

11th September 2013. Sheffield Executive Board Meeting. By Nigel Slack.

Today I went to my first ever meeting of the Sheffield Executive Board.  This impressive sounding organisation was set up “…to provide leadership within the city on issues of city-wide significance, and to advocate for Sheffield collectively to Government, the European Union and other national and international forums”.

The Board consists of “..leaders from across the private, public, voluntary, community and faith sectors in Sheffield”.  This, at least, is according to their own website.


The aim of the body is, essentially, to act first as a think tank for new ideas, policies and strategies for the city.  To then develop these potential policies into something workable, that can be supported by all the ‘partner’ organisations and finally to promote the finished product to the city as a whole and to the wider world.

Members include representatives from the City Council, Both Universities and Sheffield College, the NHS, Fire Service, Police, the Voluntary Sector, Sheffield Cathedral and Private Enterprise bodies.  Personally, I am concerned that the so called ‘faith sector’ is represented only in it’s Christian mainstream form.  No Islamic representatives, no Jewish representatives and none from the smaller Christian faiths.

This was my first visit to this meeting because, although their meetings are open to the public, they are not well promoted unless you visit the website.  Add to that the fact that the meeting had a last minute change of venue so that Leslie and I did not arrive until twenty minutes or so into the meeting.  We were, apparently the first members of the public to ever make it to a meeting and therefore caused some uncertainty but were welcomed and seated at the back of the room.

The item we arrived in the middle of was a presentation by ‘The Young Foundation’ concerning resilience and wellbeing in communities.  The research methodology looked interesting, although I didn’t catch it all, as it avoided using the Index of Multiple Deprivation statistics (IMD) in favour of drawing together evidence from a range of sources to create their picture of a community’s resilience and wellbeing. The illustrations given suggest an ability to drill down into communities and neighbourhoods better than the IMD data can.


The strategies for affecting a community’s resilience and wellbeing were based on the use of CBT (Conditional Behavioural Therapy) and Positive Psychology and they were delivered through community projects and volunteers.  This bothered me somewhat.  My experience of CBT is that it can work for some people some of the time for a short time.  Positive Psychology, on the other hand, whilst at the foreront of current practice, is facing a rising tide of challenges from academics and authors in the field. My concern therefore, is what happens to those for whom CBT does not work or who are not part of a community group?

Following the presentation there was some discussion in groups and then in general about the subject. Interestingly, during this, one of the NHS representatives present commented on the need for these types of strategies to have long term commitment to ensure the benefits that might accrue remained.  The result of the discussions was that the ideas were interesting and might be a way forward, helping communities become more resilient to the drastic changes being forged by the austerity measures being employed by the Government.

The second item in this ‘open’ session of the meeting was a discussion about the partnership working that would be happening with the redesign of the community assembly approach to local democracy.  This discussed the new structure somewhat and the fact emerged, from one of the newly appointed chairs of the Local Area Partnerships, as they ate currently called, that we would all have to get used to the fact that the Council is being forced to withdraw from offering many of the services they have traditionally fulfilled for citizens of the city.

This is both worrying and challenging, since many of the services from which they are withdrawing directly affect the most vulnerable in the city.  The question was left with the ‘partners’ to consider what they could offer in this new landscape to potentially fill the gap or redress the lack of services in these austerity years.

At the end of this discussion the guests that would not normally have been at the meeting left and we, as members of the public were also asked to leave.  The meeting was entering its ‘closed’ period where apparently they discuss items of ‘private business’. This, as you might imagine, does not sit well with me as someone who campaigns about transparency and openness in public business and decision-making.  I will therefore be making enquiries as to what sort of business this clearly influential organisation discusses behind closed doors.

Next meeting; Wednesday 9th October 2013, venue to be advised.

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