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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



Public Question in respect of Care Home Fees




Nesar Rafiq asked why the proposed care home fees increases were not applied to all care home fees. The care home he owned had not seen an increase in the last seven years. At the same time, the minimum wage for staff had risen by over £2 an hour. Mr Rafiq had requested a meeting with Council officers to discuss the issue for the past four years but had been ignored.




Councillor Chris Peace, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, responded that she, along with all Members of Cabinet, supported individualised care. It did need to be remembered that everyone was operating in a background of austerity. She was happy to ask officers to meet with Mr Rafiq to discuss the issue.




Councillor Peace added that the report on care home fee increases, on the agenda for today’s meeting, did need to go forward but a meeting could still be arranged to discuss Mr Rafiq’s case and she would ensure this happened as soon as possible.




Public Question in respect of Community Cohesion




Nigel Slack asked on behalf of Ashfaq Ahmed, who had been unable to attend the meeting, what actions were being taken by the Police and the Council together to both reassure different communities in Sheffield and to make sure that cohesion was not threatened by the killings in New Zealand?




Councillor Jim Steinke, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, commented that things had moved quickly in the last week since the attack in New Zealand. Along with the Sheffield Divisional Commander, Councillor Steinke had spoken to the local media to reassure communities and more briefings would take place over the next few days.




Councillor Steinke added that a discreet police presence had been raised in the aftermath of the attack but that he did not want community cohesion to be threatened. He had visited local mosques last Friday and would do so again this week. He was also supporting other faiths in the same respect. At the same time, the Council was developing a long term approach to community cohesion building on what had been taking place thus far.




Public Question in respect of Mount Pleasant Security




Nigel Slack stated that, following his last question to Cabinet on the matter of Mount Pleasant House and security, he was assured that there was 24 hour security for the site and that the contract had not yet been signed for the sale to Hermes Care but this was close. Since that date there had been at least one break in and the response from the City Council with respect to securing the house and repairing the damage had been lacklustre. The broken window at the front of the house was still boarded up, advertising the vulnerability of the building, and from that incident he must presume the 24 hour security was in the shape of intermittent patrols rather than an onsite presence.




Mr Slack therefore asked could the Council confirm whether security measures are patrol or on site, whether the damage still apparent will be properly repaired and when this will happen? Also, what stage of the sale process had been reached?




Councillor Olivia Blake, Cabinet Member for Finance, responded that the Council had a security contract with a provider who had alarms in both buildings which linked directly to a staffed building who could contact a response team in the event of any issues. The security team had access to the property and could secure access as part of the contract. They were also required to inform the Council of anything that they had responded to.




Councillor Blake further stated that the sale with Hermes Care was progressing and it was hoped that they would take over shortly. There was clear demand in the area for this kind of provision.




Public Question in respect of Care Home Demand




Nigel Slack commented that the report on the Care Home Market at item 9 on the agenda for today’s meeting indicated, at paragraph 7.5, that the market for care home places in the City was on a downward trend and that two care homes, accounting for 90 beds, were likely to close. How did this fit in to the contention during the Mount Pleasant decision that there was demand for this new development in the market and, if this demand was no longer there, what was the point with continuing with this unpopular sale?




Councillor Chris Peace responded that there was demand for that provider at this location. She acknowledged that the need for provision was changing but there was a need at this present time. The Council needed to monitor the wishes of people. Most people’s preference currently was to live independently for as long as possible. Some of the current Council buildings for this provision were quite old in age and it was hoped that people could be placed in more adapted settings in the future.




Public Question in respect of the Streets Ahead Contract




Nigel Slack commented that, with reports in local political bulletins and newspapers reporting that Amey Plc had sold their share of the investment in the Streets Ahead PFI, what can the Council tell us about the current state of the contract , whether this sale had impacted on delivery of the contract within contract terms and whether they had knowledge of the new investor and their intentions in respect of the contract? Mr Slack added that reports had suggested the new investor was a hedge fund known for asset stripping and flipping such contracts to the detriment of the service provided, and he asked what can the Council tell us about this?




Mr Slack further asked did the Council anticipate any impact on the PFI contract based on the plans of Amey to continue to divest similar contracts (notably an offer to Birmingham of £245m to settle their dispute and one of £32m to Aggregate Industries on issues around the Sheffield contract) and of their parent company Ferrovial’s plans to divest the whole of this deeply unprofitable ‘public sector’ arm of their business?




Councillor Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, responded that there had been an unnecessary alarm in how this had been reported. The sale within a Special Purpose Vehicle was a routine transaction and had no impact on the Streets Ahead project. If this resulted in the sale of Amey, he did not anticipate any impact on the programme.




Public Question in respect of the Locality Management Strategy




Nigel Slack commented that he was aware that the Council was currently undertaking a review of the Locality Management strategy and it had been indicated that new proposals will aim to address the many failings of the last unpopular change. Until that new strategy came to pass, will there be any changes to the way Ward pots are managed? Who will set Ward priorities? Will there be any changes to the published guidelines? Who makes the decisions on awarding funding?




Councillor Jim Steinke commented that Ward pots would continue in the same way. Ward priorities were set by Ward Members in consultation with the public. There were no significant changes to the published guidelines. Ward Members made the decisions on awarding funding.




Public Question in respect of Castlegate Conversation Area




Nigel Slack asked will the cancelled consultation on the Castlegate Conservation Area return to the table before the May elections and will progress be possible during Pre-Election Rules on Publicity (PERP)? Will decisions on potential developments within this area also be delayed so that developers cannot take advantage of the lack of progress?




Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, responded that he had made the decision to postpone the consultation as he was not satisfied with the work undertaken so far. The work undertaken needed to act as a catalyst for development and not a barrier. He was sorry that the consultation had to be cancelled at short notice due to recent changes in Cabinet Member portfolios.  He could not confirm a date for the consultation at this stage as further work needed to be done. Decisions on development would not be delayed and policies and procedures were in place. Once further work had been done and a date for consultation confirmed, he would let Mr Slack know.