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, 3 October 2013

30th September 2013 - Paul Blomfield MP, Public Consultation Meeting, by Nigel Slack

Paul Blomfield is the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central Constituency and my local MP. Each year he undertakes a week of consultation meetings in the constituency to try to get an idea of the issues facing his electorate and what concerns of theirs he should reflect in his role in Parliament.


The meeting started with Paul giving a brief introduction and highlighting that the areas he was tackling currently were around 'fairness'. Issues such as 'Pay Day Lenders' and 'Local Authority Funding'.

He then opened the meeting up to the people in the room, about 20 or so at this meeting, to raise matters of concern. I guess inevitably in this local situation many of the matters raised were not so much matters for MP's but for local Councils and Councillors and so I will only report on the issues that arose with with a national emphasis.

A question was raised about local parking charges.
A question was raised about the closure and impending demolition of Don Valley Stadium.
A question was raised about Early Years funding in the City.

Since Paul is a member of the Business, Skills and Innovation Select Committee, I raised the issue of the 'Supermarket Levy' as it has been called with the following question.

"Using the Sustainable Communities Act to allow local authorities to raise an extra 8.5% business rate on businesses with a rateable value in excess of £500,000 would net Sheffield City Council an extra £6M per year to support local businesses and the local high street. It is supported by the local Federation of Small Businesses and estimated to cost less than 3p per £100 of profits for these national retailers. What is your view on this idea?"
Paul commented that it was always difficult to add to the tax burden on retail companies in the current climate and that the Labour Party were looking at how to potentially raise money for local business rate relief through the corporation tax instead.

I followed that up with the comment that any tax raised centrally would need to be distributed by Central Government and that the point of the Levy would be that, tax raised locally, would be retained locally and spent locally.

A question was raised about two derelict and demolished churches in the area.
A question was raised about educating people about Islam before they are tempted by organisations such as EDL. (English Defence League)
A question was raised about reduced funding for spaces to promote 'Community Cohesion'. This drew a comment about how the troubles in the Middle East are impacting on local Muslim children and is reflected in attitudes locally to Muslims. Paul commented that it is important for politicians and the national press to be careful about the language they use when describing terrorists, acts of violence etc.
A question was raised about the state of Sheffield's roads.

I raised the issue of the impending 'Deregulation Bill' with the following question.

The innocuously titled Deregulation Bill, quietly tabled in draft by Oliver Letwin and Ken Clarke just before the summer break, strips citizens of our right to be consulted before services are closed or privatised. It imposes a ‘growth duty’ on regulators to ensure they act in a more business-friendly manner, which could force health watchdogs like the Care Quality Commission to prioritise ‘economic growth’. And it gives a blanket power to government ministers to repeal inconvenient laws without parliamentary scrutiny. Are you aware of this and what is your view?

Paul commented that the Labour Party were aware of the bill and share the concerns expressed.

A question was raised about what Labour will do to return powers and funding to Local Authorities.
Paul commented that they had started a consultation on what 'critical' powers should be returned to Local Authorities, should Labour regain power. He admitted there was always a problem about Governments wanting to introduce reforms centrally across the country rather than letting Local Government decide.
He also admitted that fundraising powers were a problem. Funds needed to be allocated according to greatest need, but it was difficult to find a simple formula that balanced autonomy with equity.

At this point the meeting drew to a close, the hour allocated being up, but Paul agreed to talk further with the group concerned about the Early Years funding.