Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions and Other Communications

To receive any questions or petitions from the public, or communications submitted by the Lord Mayor or the Chief Executive and to pass such resolutions thereon as the Council Procedure Rules permit and as may be deemed expedient.







Petition Regarding Anti-Social Behaviour in the Firth Park Area




The Council received a petition containing 5 signatures, regarding anti-social behaviour in the Firth Park area.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Mike Sheldon. Mr Sheldon said that he had lived in the area for 35 years and he believed that it had become one of the worst living areas in the Country. He said that the value of his property had significantly reduced because of the anti-social behaviour and problems of overcrowded housing. People did not feel that it was safe to walk in Firth Park and used taxis to travel the relatively short distance to hospital appointments. There was evidence of rubbish dumped and which included used needles.




The police were aware of the issues and had been called to deal with incidents and whilst they dealt with a particular problem at the time, it was felt that generally they had too few resources. The Council was requested to help by dealing with landlords who were not acting responsibly. He also referred to issues relating to tampering with gas meters and concerns relating to gas safety. He said that he had received help from Councillor Mark Jones, his local ward Councillor. He asked the Council to take action with regards to the problems which he had outlined.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety. Councillor Dunn acknowledged that there were a number of issues raised by the petition. She said there was a lot of work being done which it would not be appropriate for her to talk about at this meeting. With regards to the gas meters, she said that she was to meet with the relevant government agency and this was something which she had attempted to do for the past four months.  Community policing was being re-established so that basic policing work could take place. 




She said that she would like to arrange a meeting with Mr Sheldon and other residents with regards to all of the issues which had been the subject of the petition. The Council did prosecute landlords providing there was evidence and it also required the Courts to support such action. She hoped that the Council could be given more powers and financial resources in relation to enforcement in respect of landlords. She said that during the summer, there had been a significant amount of work carried out in connection with the problems described in the petition and she hoped that big changes would be seen as a result.




Petition Requesting the Replacement of the Barriers at Victoria Quayside




The Council received an electronic petition containing 1011 signatures, requesting the replacement of the barriers at Victoria Quayside.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Hannah Padmore who made reference to the tragic loss of life of two young men at that location. She said that the precautions should be taken to make the area safer and that improvements were needed to the existing barriers at the Quayside




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety. Councillor Dunn said that she wished to extend sympathies to the family and friends of the two young people that had lost their lives. The area of the Victoria Quayside was private land and she would write to the landowner with regards to the points made in the petition. She said that the petitioners had the Council’s full support.




Petition Requesting the Immediate Cessation to the Felling of Healthy Street Trees and the Suspension of the Streets Ahead Contract with Amey on Health and Safety Grounds 




The Council received a petition containing 11 signatures, requesting an immediate cessation to the felling of healthy street trees and the suspension the Streets Ahead contract with Amey on health and safety grounds.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Richard Davis. Mr Davis stated that the petitioners were requesting the Council to immediately suspend and either renegotiate or terminate the Private Finance Initiative contract with Amey. This had been the subject of an earlier petition in July 2017 and this petition was brought on the grounds of new evidence having been made available.




He said Amey had not disclosed a criminal conviction to the City Council as part of a pre-qualification process for the Streets Ahead contract and he believed that there would have been a breach of the Council’s process for the submission of information as part of the bid process agreement.




He also referred to the issue of two Notices of contravention to Amey and Acorn Environmental by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for breaches of health and safety law in relation to which the HSE would work to intervene.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene. Councillor Lodge requested that the details were put in writing to him as the petition had raised several issues and he would make sure that a written response was made in response to the petition.




He said that he received an email from Mr Davis and said he could comment on the policy position but not with regard to detailed legal matters and he had suggested that Mr Davis put his concerns in writing. He was aware that similar allegations had been made at the injunction hearing in Court and that this had also been raised in the petition to Council in July.




Petition Requesting the Installation of CCTV on East Bank Road




The Council received an electronic petition containing 11 signatures, requesting the installation of CCTV on East Bank Road. There was no speaker to the petition.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety.






Public Questions




Public Question Concerning Devolution




Nigel Slack asked whether, since the failure of the devolution deal on the 18 September there had since been any discussions between the South Yorkshire Councils about the future of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority;  what discussions had taken place between the government and Sheffield City Region Combined Authority over holding and paying for the mayoral election; and were any conversations planned between any of the parties involved to try and bring this issue to a more stable and rational conclusion?




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded to the question. She said that, yes [there had been discussions between the South Yorkshire Councils about the future of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority]. Yes, there was ongoing discussion [between the government and the Combined Authority]; and yes, there had been and were ongoing conversations [between the parties involved to try and bring this issue to a more stable and rational conclusion].




Public Question Concerning Carillion




Nigel Slack said that there had been reports in media business pages which indicated that the construction conglomerate Carillion had recently won part of a Framework agreement with Sheffield City Council. He asked the following questions:


1.     Was this contract subject to Council scrutiny and if so when?

2.     What are the 7 'lots' that this contract covers?

3.     Mr Slack made reference to financial problems relating to the company and the possible sale of the company and asked whether this company was still a fit and proper contractor for this agreement?

4.     Has the Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene been, in any way, involved with this contract and do any of the 'lots' fall under that Portfolio?

5.     As an employee of Carillion will the Cabinet Member not be subject to potential conflicts of interest?





Councillor Bryan Lodge stated that his employment related to the Northern Rail contract and specifically the delay repay service. He was not part of the other functions and contracts side of the company, Carillion. His employment was not connected to the decision making with regard to the contracts part of Carillion nor the contract to which Mr Slack had referred. There was not a conflict of interest relating to his employment and Cabinet portfolio.




He commented that Councillors came on to the Council and public life to do the right thing and it was unfortunate that sometimes people implied that those in public life were in it only for themselves.




Public Question Concerning Fracking




Nigel Slack stated that a company with an Ecclesfield site, FCC, had been given permission to treat Fracking waste within the city boundary. He said that the waste materials could include a broad range of poisonous compounds, including radioactive material. He said that the Council had previously stated its opposition to Fracking on Council land.


Mr Slack asked the following questions:


1.     Was the Council consulted on this permission by the Environment Agency, Ineos or FCC?

2.     With the likely increase in heavy traffic to this site, can Council take any steps to mitigate the impact for the residents of Ecclesfield?

3.     The site is within 100m of Blackburn Brook, what can Council do to demand extra safeguards for that watercourse?

4.     This site is at high risk of surface water flooding and medium risk of river flooding, will Council consider challenging this permission on this basis, in view of the devastation that even a minor spill would cause if Fracking waste were to enter the watercourse?

5.     Who owns the Atlas Business Park, where this site is located?

6.     Does FCC have any contracts with the Council or its outsourced contractors?




Councillor Jack Scott, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability responded to the questions. He said the Sheffield City Council was one of the first councils to express a view with regards to Fracking. He commented that, even if the process could be made ‘safe’ it would still create a carbon based fossil fuel.




Councillor Scott said that he would write to Mr Slack setting out the Council’s position on this matter.




Public Question Concerning Streets Ahead




Nigel Slack said that on 26 September he had sent an email to the Leader of the Council, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene and the Chief Executive with concerns over an email sent out by a Director to two members of the Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG). His concern centred around decision making powers over what was and was not a breach of the recent injunction and the assertion that a failure to condemn actions by other people was in itself a breach of the same injunction.


He said he had asked two questions as follows, to which he had yet to receive a response:


On what statement by the Judge or other legal precedence does the Director base their decision and does the 'legal department' agree with this position?


Can you [the recipients of Mr Slack’s email] confirm whether you were aware of or had approved this email before it went out and whether the threats and the deadline are still to be carried through?




Councillor Bryan Lodge, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene responded that the officers were acting within the guidelines with regard to the injunction. He said that he believed that the Director’s email to which Mr Slack referred was clear and the Council had explained the meaning of the injunction and was asking the joint Chairs of STAG to advise people that there was an injunction in place and not to breach the injunction.




Public Question Concerning Myanmar




Shahid Ali referred to the petition which had been submitted to the meeting of Council in September 2017 concerning events in Myanmar and requesting that the Freedom of the City granted to Aung San Suu Kyi be withdrawn. He asked what had been done to progress this matter.




In response, Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, said that since the last meeting of Council, a cross party group had discussed whether the Council would wish to withdraw the Honorary Freedom of the City granted to Aung San Suu Kyi and was in the process of bringing the matter back to a meeting of Council, which it was expected would be at the next meeting, in November.




Public Question Concerning Adverse Childhood Experiences




Gareth Slater referred to a motion regarding the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on the life prospects of children. 




He said that he was a volunteer for a group currently producing the Sheffield Mental Health guide and was looking to help people live with the aftermath of ACEs.  He said that he had an ACE score of 7, and even 28 years later had to explain to a new boss what that meant and the impact of the illness caused by it. It was therefore important to ensure more voices of survivors were heard and there are a number of issues holding back survivors coming forward and reducing the fear of reprisal would help children come forward.




He referred to the problems children encountered in dealing with adult situations which they might not understand and the ease with which they might be manipulated by adults.




He asked whether the Council supported “Sammy’s Law” raised by Sammy Woodhouse who survived abuse in Rotherham, that any crimes committed under the influence of abuse would not be counted against the individual.




Councillor Jackie Drayton, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families responded and thanked Mr Slater for sharing his experiences. She said that the Annual report of the Director of Public Health, which had been submitted to Cabinet in September, included a chapter concerning Adverse Childhood Experiences and there was a recommendation and priorities for action in the report. The recommendation concerned a request for further research into the long term return on investment of tackling Adverse Childhood Experiences. It was also important to continue to support adults who had experiences in the past and which led to continuing issues in adulthood.




Councillor Drayton said that she would write to Mr Slater and provide a link to the Director of Public Health Report.




Public Question Concerning Standards in Public Life




Justin Buxton asked a question concerning adherence to the seven principles of public life by Members and Council Officers and as to the potential sanctions if these principles were not followed.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, stated that there were policies and procedures in place with regard to a Members’ Code of Conduct and councillors were aware of these when they made a declaration of acceptance of office. For councillors, there was a standards process which dealt with complaints and an Independent Person was appointed as part of the process of considering matters relating to complaints and the behaviour of councillors.




There was a similar process for officers in terms of employee conduct. There was a procedure to ensure that complaints were properly considered and investigated. Appropriate and relevant action was taken depending upon the nature of the complaint and the outcome of the process.




Councillor Dore said that, where someone believed there to have been a breach of the relevant code of conduct, the issue should be taken through the appropriate complaints procedure. 




Public Question Concerning Actions of Council Officers




Justin Buxton asked, if a Council Officer wrote to a citizen, claiming that they had been made aware that a law had been broken and had failed to provide evidence of the allegation, would it be acceptable or be considered as harassment and an abuse of power?




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council responded that, if an officer responded to a query which stated that someone was believed to have behaved in a certain manner, then she would expect that assertion to be based on evidence. She said that if Mr Buxton was aware of an issue or particular case, he should write to her and she would follow up the matter.




Public Question Concerning Awards




R Johnson asked if the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene would join him in congratulating Councillors Alison Teal and Magid Magid for being nominated for the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) Awards for ‘Community Champion’ and ‘Young Councillor of the Year’ respectively.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded that she believed that any councillor that was recognised for their work for the City, citizens or society in general should be congratulated. Sometimes the job of a local councillor was difficult and their efforts were not always recognised and she would therefore congratulate all of them.




Councillor Bryan Lodge, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene said that he agreed with the comments made by the Leader of the Council. He said that councillors all did what they thought was best for the City and gave time and commitment and he would applaud people for putting themselves forward as local councillors.




Public Question Concerning Member Conduct




R Johnson commented on what he said was the brusque treatment of members of the public at the last meeting of full Council and a style of chairing which he said that he believed was likely to deter citizens from participating. He invited the Lord Mayor to respond.




On the advice of the Chief Executive, the question was noted.




Public Questions Concerning Streets Ahead




Dave Dillner asked why engineering solutions specified by the Head of Highway Maintenance at the second Tree Advisory Forum and Barrister Richard Honey in his answer to Mr Justice Gilbert were not being used on Kenwood Road on the tree at the main entrance to the Kenwood Hall Hotel. 




Helen McIlroy asked how many kilometres or miles of pavement and carriageway were still awaiting resurfacing work on roads with no trees. She asked why there was a delay in completing the works.




Justin Buxton asked whether the five year tree management strategy also formed an integral part of the Streets Ahead contract and, if so, which criteria applied to the contract. He asked whether in those cases where the Council accepted the advice of the Independent Tree Panel, the trees concerned were removed from the contract and was the Council liable for future pruning of the tree and routine maintenance?




Shelley Cockayne referred to comments by the Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene to the effect that the Council would not wish to take legal action. She commented that she believed that this appeared to be disingenuous in the light of the fact that the media was aware that the Council did not have to take legal action. She asked whether there was concern as to how this matter reflected on the relevant political party.




Secondly, Shelley Cockayne asked whether there were controls on councillors to prevent them speaking out in relation to street trees. Thirdly, she asked a question with regard to an invitation to participate in mediation and finding a way forward on issues relating to street trees and with regard to participation in consultation.




Declan Walsh stated that as a resident, he had noticed that resurfacing work had been halted in the past few weeks and he asked why this was so.




Councillor Bryan Lodge, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene, responded to the questions. He said that the Independent Tree Panel letter on the Council’s website agreed with the decision to remove and replace the tree referred to on Kenwood Road. He said that none of the 14 engineering solutions were considered appropriate in that case. The Kerb was absent and there was a buttress root in the road.




Councillor Lodge said that he would provide written responses to the questions asked by Helen McIlroy and Justin Buxton.




With regards to the question asked by Shelley Cockayne, Councillor Lodge said that the Council did not wish to see people going through legal action in the courts and it supported people’s right to peaceful protest. However, the Council could not support action which would prevent work from going ahead. Nonetheless, individuals would come to a decision as to their own actions. He said that the Council was the highways authority and it also had to take account of delays to the programme of work. If people were continuing to trespass in safety zones there was a process in place to respond to such action.




Councillor Lodge said that there were differences of opinion in relation to issues within the political group which formed the Administration of the Council. Nevertheless, the Council policy regarding the Streets Ahead programme had the backing of that political group.




He said that he would be pleased to arrange a further meeting with representatives of the Sheffield Tree Action Groups and this could be done through the Leader of the Council’s office.




Councillor Lodge said that with regard to the progress of the resurfacing works to the highway, the relaying of the highway had been carried out by Aggregate Industries and there had been a pause in work. Tarmac was now continuing that carriageway resurfacing work. Updates would be provided to people when works were to take place in their area. Work was ongoing and would be accelerated to put in place replacement lighting, resurfacing etc so as to deliver what was right for the City.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, added that she had never refused to meet with representatives of the Sheffield Tree Action Groups and would be pleased to meet with them.