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, 12 March 2018

Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Meeting - 9th March 2018

Unusually the meeting started late, nearly 15 minutes late. Are we to assume the 'secret' part of the meeting had some controversy? Certainly the public meeting was down to be all business, despite a public question from me.

The formal public meeting started with the usual preamble around apologies, items for the exclusion of press etc. Interestingly and for me disappointing there was a complete lack of any potential or declared Mayoral candidates at the meeting. This is the Authority they will be leading after the election in May and they missed the opportunity to attend and see the theatre for themselves.

I can say that the candidate for the Yorkshire Party, Mick Bower of Rotherham, has attended several previous meetings but not a single candidate or potential candidate for the major parties has ever, as far as I know, attended a City Region Meeting. The next meeting of the SCRCA is planned for April 30th, during election Purdah, so this was their only opportunity to see the Region Leaders in action before the election.

The only people in the 'public gallery' a grand title for half a dozen chairs against one wall of the meeting room, were myself and two ladies from Moorends, in the Doncaster Borough. They were there to present a petition from the village about bus services. It was nice to see them there, in the right place to ask about Public Transport issues and that they got at least a partial response.

The Chair, Chris Read (Leader of Rotherham Borough) acknowledged the petition, thanked them and promised to refer it to the Transport Committee (part of the SCRCA structure). Ros Jones – Mayor of Doncaster, responded to say she supported the petition and the need for a service to Moorends. Julie Dore – Leader of Sheffield City Council also responded to support the petition being put to the Committee and to suggest, if they had one, to Doncaster's Bus Partnership.

My question was next up; What Skills Training or Apprenticeship contracts for SCR are currently delivered by Learndirect Ltd?

An Ofsted inspection in 2017 found the company “inadequate” and a Government DfE spokeswoman said: "The government is ending Learndirect's contract to provide apprenticeships and adult education, because of its failure to meet the high standards expected.

What will be the impact of this report and this statement on SCR learners?

BBC News Report 2nd March 2018

The response came from the Chair, Chris Read to the effect that; Officers confirmed this is a National Contract so no direct delivery of services for SCRCA by Learn Direct but there will be some impact on local Learners. That information was not immediately available but Officers would be tasked to provide the detail.

A reasonable answer, I'll await the complete response.

The meeting was settling into it's usual routine of brief reports from Officers on financial, committee and Executive Board operations. Few matters of interest though, those with a good memory, will note that the initial forecast of costs for the Mayoral Election has risen from £1M to nearly £2M but no comment on why and no query of this from any of the political leaders in attendance.

On the Capital Funding side of things it looks likely the CA will be underspent by nearly £10M and officers are now negotiating(?) to retain this money for next year rather than return it to Government. In this same report we may have found this month's source of irritation between the Council Leaders

"2.19 Local transport capital pot This element is a proposed new component of the South Yorkshire transport capital programme and accounts for 8% of the overall programme. It is proposed to split the pot (£3.5m) across Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham according to their population estimates. Further details about this element of the programme can be found in a separate report which will be presented to CA Leaders on 9th March 2018."

Julie Dore started by asking where this £3.5M came from and what was the rationale that allocated the money to only 3 of the relevant districts on a per capita proportionate basis? Also were there any other examples of where this had been done before?

Response from Officers indicated this was part of the overall borrowing in the Capital Programme for the Passenger Transport Authority. The programme of spending for Sheffield City had been agreed and this further amount was therefore allocated just to Barnsley Doncaster & Rotherham. Julie Dore reiterated her need for a rationale behind that decision if the overall South Yorkshire PTE pot was where this money came from. It is to be noted the previous reports do not refer to this 'pot' being restricted to only 3 of the 4 Councils.

It was at this point that moods deteriorated and pointed comments were made over the cost of Supertram (benefitting only Sheffield) as a negative impact on SCR budgets and that Barnsley taxpayers deserved this pot. Barnsley and Doncaster were essentially saying Sheffield got enough and they wanted something just for the smaller distrticts. Rotherham tried to keep the peace but when it came to a recorded vote, the three districts outvoted Sheffield. Was £3.5M worth the further bad feeling this will generate between Council Leaders?

The rest of the reports passed by without comment or questions from leaders again and the meeting was wound up soon after.

Next Meeting - 30th April 2018, 2pm, AMP – This falls during election Purdah and may be subject to change.


  1. Hasn't the transport committee stopped meeting?

    1. It is in hiatus awaiting the Mayor apparently.