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.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Overview & Scrutiny Management Committee Meeting of 26th November 2014, by Nigel Slack.

This committee is responsible for keeping a watchful eye on the work programmes of the Council's scrutiny committees. It also has overview of city wide matters that cut across other committee boundaries.

After the usual housekeeping announcements and approval of minutes, the meeting moved straight to Public Questions. I had put a question about the review of the Locality Management arrangements and their scrutiny but was asked by the Chair, Cllr Chris Weldon (Labour) if it could be passed to the next days Safer & Stronger Communities Scrutiny meeting, which was more appropriate as they were to receive a report on same. I agreed.

The only other question was from Alan Kewley. He first expressed concern over the time taken to respond, in writing to questions when that was promised. His response to the questions asked at the previous months meeting had arrived in his e-mail that very morning and he had no time to digest the response nor disseminate it before today's meeting. He then went on to discuss how it might be possible to increase public involvement in these meetings and with more and more Council's now webcasting their meetings what the potential was for this in Sheffield?

The Chair's response was that there had been lots of changes over the last few years that had improved peoples involvement in council matters and that webcasting had been considered in the past. He promised a written answer from officers, that would come to the board for their consideration. Cllr Ian Auckland (Lib/Dem) asked that the responses be available within ten days. The Chairs agreed this should be so.

The main item of interest on the rest of the agenda was a report on the Boundary Commission review of the ward boundaries for the council. This was given by James Henderson and Victoria Penman.

They recapped the position so far. The commission had considered the size (number of councillors) of the council and agreed to keep that at 84, in 28 three councillor wards. This stage of the commissions proceedings was consultation about the actual ward boundaries. This is a complex decision and the Boundary Commission report is available here. The main problem however was to cut the size of the Central Ward which had 148% of the number of electors it was supposed to have. The consequence of this is that the Commission has radically shifted many residents into neighbouring wards and the ripples move outwards to a lesser degree.

There were eight public comments in this item, six from residents in Highfield who were unhappy about the splitting of the community into two different wards and two from Bradway who were upset that the same thing had happened to Bradway last time around and had not been corrected this time.

There were also comments from the members of the committee about Highfield and who had made this decision. James Henderson said it was a result of the decision about Council size. The Council elects by thirds and this meant that all wards had to have three councillors. A proposal by officers to split the Central ward in two each with two councillors was therefore not feasible despite the fact it was the best solution to future proof the ward against new development that was in the offing.

Cllr Sarah Jane Smalley (Green) commented that she understood there had been consideration of a proposal to split Gleedless from Arbouthorne and that this would have balanced the numbers but it was unpopular with Councillors in that area. Cllr Pat Midgley (Labour) suggested that boundary changes settle down over time and few people now remember the defunct Castle ward.

Cllr Jillian Creasey (Green) commented that the Council still needed to make strong submissions to the commission as they are a powerful consultee and their comments would be crucial. Finally Cllr Bryan Lodge (Labour) wanted to clarify for the record that this was a commission proposal and not the City Council's.

The Chair then summarised that this was the second consultation by the commission and that all public comments today would be included in the Council's submission. He also asked officers to meet with the Highfield community and relevant Councillors to get further comments.

The rest of the agenda was quickly despatched and the meeting dispersed.

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