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.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sheffield City Council Cabinet Meeting 14th February 2018

My questions to Cabinet this month were a bit unusual in a number of ways. Some are relatively straightforward but are a part of a longer term considered inquiry and one was delivered on the day instead of in advance as is my usual practice.

In a similarly unusual move some of the questions were either answered or written answers were offered before the meeting. In view of what came later, this was useful.

So: Question 1, on numbers of staff and budgets for Communications as against Democratic Services, I will be receiving a written answer.

Question 2, on capacity and number of students enrolled in the City's two University Technical Colleges, I will be receiving a written answer.

Question 3, on progress on my Conduct Complaint against a Councillor, I was updated verbally before the meeting and have since received a written answer. Apparently we are awaiting the arranging of a 'Consideration Sub-Committee' and have been since before Christmas. I wonder what will happen if this is not arranged before the AGM when everyone plays musical chairs in the committees?

Question 4, on the recent report by the Communities & Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into Overview & Scrutiny Functions in Local Government, was answered by Cllr Julie Dore (Leader). She commented that she would expect the Council's own Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee to consider the report as part of it's work programme. It would also look at all the recommendations of the report even though I had highlighted only certain parts.

That is fine by me, I had at this stage highlighted areas I know SCC don't do currently in the hope of stimulating a debate on the effectiveness of scrutiny in the city. To that extent I am content … for now.

My final question of the meeting was submitted at short notice and therefore I expected little by way of an answer but it was to serve notice that a disagreement may be at hand. In my Question 5 I asked about a decision announced (in private to the Sheffield Star only) that day about Mount Pleasant House being sold to a company to make into a Care Home.

There had been, in the previous week, reasons to believe that the decision may have been based on 'mistaken' or missing information in the reports received by Cabinet Members. I therefore asked that the decision be referred to Scrutiny to ensure “...that a complete understanding of the decision can be achieved and that it is based on a full understanding of the impact of this decision on another gem of Sheffield's heritage before it is lost to the local community forever.”

I also asked for a number of bits of information about the stage of the negotiations with the successful bidder.

The initial response was from Julie Dore, who commented that there is a protocol for contract decisions and it is not possible to comment on confidential or commercially sensitive information. There was no comment about referring the decision to Scrutiny.

Cllr Olivia Blake (Cabinet Member for Finance) then confirmed the offer of a meeting for the following morning as she thought an early meeting with herself, Cllr Ben Curran (Cabinet Member for Planning and Development) and Cllr Mazher Iqbal (Cabinet Member for Business and Investment) would be useful to look at other locations to develop some of the proposals in the Mount Pleasant bid.

I suspect this story will run and run, whilst another unique gem of Sheffield's heritage is under threat.

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1 comment:

  1. When they say commercially sensitive it quite often means personally sensitive due to backhanders