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, 23 July 2015

Sheffield City Council Cabinet Meeting - 22nd July 2015, by Nigel Slack

The meeting was chaired today by Cllr Leigh Bramall, deputy leader and Cabinet Member for Business, Skills & Development, as the leader, Cllr Julie Dore was away on Council business. We weren't told what. The usual introductions and housekeeping arrangements were concluded and we moved on to what, for me is generally the most interesting part of the meeting, Public Questions.

Today Council received questions on;
Normanton Hill pedestrian crossing and the delay in it's implementation. Cllr Terry Fox Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport replied that council are committed to the crossing and the delay is due to resource issues but it will happen.

The sale of Walkley Library to the Forum Cafe Group and a request for information on the negotiations between the council and the cafe group. Cllr Isobel Bowler Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods replied there had been no formal report to cabinet on the issue and she would treat the request as a Freedom of Information request to find out what letters or e-mails etc were available on the negotiations. This would not however be available in time for the Scrutiny Committee meeting next week. (seems to me a reason for delaying both the scrutiny decision and the formal sale until the information is available to the public and councillors on the committee)

The setting up of the new 'Schools Company' as a formal body to try and ensure equal treatment across all schools in regard to early intervention and other similar services. Cllr Jackie Drayton Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Families commented that as any school became an academy and as new academies were built the council lose some of the budget for these services to the individual schools. The new company is an attempt to ensure the schools continue to have a co-ordinated approach and that with non council schools contributing the budget may be preserved.

Tinsley Green Youth Club and the impact of the new school extension planned for the location. Cllr Jackie Drayton replied that the council supported the youth club as budgets allowed and that other organisations also provided additional hours for the club to be open. She pointed out that the new school will have community space inside for local use also and that she would be happy to assist any 'Friends of the Park' group that came into being but that council could not promote this, it had to come from the community themselves.

I was then able to weigh in with a mighty six questions (council will be lacking meetings in August) which went as follows;

First, with concern being expressed about the weakness of council planning policies, particularly in respect of heritage sites, where are council on the new Sheffield Local Plan to bring policies up to date? And will they adopt the same proposals as Islington plan to create for greater transparency in developers 'viability' claims used to reduce commitments to building affordable housing?

Cllr Leigh Bramall responded, commenting that the details of the process were very dry and rather than go into detail he would send the information in writing. He added that there was an ongoing problem with capacity, meaning too few council employees to do the job, and that a final 'Local Plan' might be 2 to 3 years away. He also commented that the city had a good record with heritage assets and were considered a 'best practice' council in this area. On the Islington initiative he commented that he would keep an eye on it and see how it developed.

Question two was about the 'Save Devonshire Street' campaign and whether in light of the campaign achieving it's funding for an appeal against the council's demolition decision they would look again at the advice received by the group from their legal team and reconsider defending the decision.

This was responded to by Cllr Jayne Dunn Cabinet Member for Housing who commented that one judge had already agreed with the Councils decision being correct but that of course they were in dialogue with the campaign group.

Question three asked about the Councils stance on the new 'Devolution Deal' being promoted by George Osbourne and whether they would continue to resist the imposition of a City Region Mayor? I also asked whether they would consult on this with the people of the city?

Cllr Leigh Bramall replied, as Julie Dore was missing, that 'in principle' the council was opposed to imposed elected mayors, it was not being ruled out. It would depend on how good the deal was and whether they felt they could deal with the consequences. He also commented that Nationally government could now, with a majority, force this through. On the matter of public consultation, he made no comment at all.

My question four asked whether the review of council meeting procedures would be go ahead, as requested by the leader of the Sheffield Lib Dems and would the public be involved in the review?

Cllr Bramall reported that the Leader, Julie Dore, would be looking at this he was sure that in any review the public would be involved.

Question five, was in respect of the Grade 2 listed building known as Mount Pleasant. I wanted to know if the council had signed any agreement with a commercial developer in respect of the building and the empty school behind? I also asked for a meeting with the relevant Cabinet Member to discuss evidence of misleading information being used in regard to this building.

The response was from Cllr Jayne Dunn who confirmed that a lease agreement has been signed on the building and also that she would be happy to meet with me to discuss the matter further.

Lastly I asked about the Skyride event in Sheffield. I commented that I found it distasteful it was sponsored by a Rupert Murdoch media company. However this year I also found out the stewards for the event were from G4S, a company that the city council have agreed not to use in council contracts because of their poor human rights record. I asked whether the council would work to ensure this was not the case at the event next year?

Cllr Bramall responded that the event was a nationally sponsored event so they could have no influence over the direct sponsor ie. Sky but that he would bring the matter of the stewarding to the attention of Cllr Ben Curran Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources who would respond to me in writing, he not being at the meeting today.

So, a mixed bag of answers, some positive some less so and areas of further work identified. I will now follow up on the devolution matters with the City Region and the Mount Pleasant issues whilst awaiting the further information I have been promised.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your really insightful blog.