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.



(NOTES: 1. In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website in relation to meetings of the Council held remotely, questions/petitions are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on Monday 1st March.


2. There is a time limit of one hour for the above item of business. For this particular meeting, it is expected that the time limit will be strictly adhered to, in accordance with the Council Procedure Rules.  Priority will be given to petitions and to questions relating to budget proposals, and any questions which are unable to be asked within the one-hour allocation will be answered in writing after the meeting.  The Lord Mayor (as Chair of the meeting) has discretion as to how questions and petitions are presented at the meeting and as to whether questioners/petitioners are invited to ask their question or present their petition at the meeting, or they are read out at the meeting.)





The Lord Mayor (Councillor Tony Downing) reported that three petitions and questions from five members of the public had been received prior to the published deadline for submission of petitions and questions for this meeting.  He invited the petitioners to present their petitions, and the questioners to ask their questions.








Petition Requesting Action to Tackle Parking Problems on the Road Around Rother Valley Country Park




The Council received a petition containing 241 signatures requesting the Council to urgently tackle the dangerous parking on the road around Rother Valley Country Park, and to work with the Country Park and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to come up with a long-term solution to the problem.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Ann Woolhouse, who informed the Council that the car park at Rother Valley Country Park was small and in poor condition. There were problems with parking in the area and this was a concern for residents that lived in the area who had said that although problems had been exacerbated by the coronavirus, the situation was also generally bad during summer. People parked vehicles on Meadowgate Drive and this adversely affected visibility for residents coming out from their driveway and there was a potential for accidents.




Ann Woolhouse said that cars parked on pavements and this obstructed pedestrians. She outlined the effect on wheelchair users and their ability to access the Park because of the potential danger of having to walk on the road due to pavements being blocked by visitors’ cars. There was also concern about access for emergency vehicles, particularly when vehicles were parked on both sides of the road.




She asked what the City Council was going to do about the car park and the parking in the area.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Julie Grocutt (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development). Councillor Grocutt thanked Ann Woolhouse for presenting the petition. She confirmed that action would be taken to tackle the dangerous parking in the areas around Rother Valley Country Park and that the Council would work with the Country Park and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to find a long-term solution to the problem. Discussions had already begun with Rotherham and as Cabinet Member she explained that she had met with residents, the local Councillor and Member of Parliament to listen and understand the issues residents were facing.




Councillor Grocutt explained that she had asked officers in the Strategic Transport and Infrastructure service and Parking Services to coordinate with colleagues in the Parks and Countryside and Woodlands Service to propose a plan to tackle the issues. The plan would be co-operative with Rotherham Borough Council and the Country Park and the adjoining highways authority and the ambition was to develop a joined up coherent plan to minimise the impact on local residents, improve traffic management and options for short term parking for Rother Valley Country Park.  Officers were investigating the funding options available to deliver an effective plan and the expectation was that the transport planning resource to develop and deliver the final plan was available to begin work on this project in mid-spring.  In the meantime, the Council would continue to work with the Safer Neighbourhoods Policing Team to tackle the dangerous parking. She said that the local Councillor would be pleased to provide updates to the community.




Petition requesting the Council to Reduce the Waiting Times for Council House Repairs in Line with other Regional Local Authorities




The Council received a joint paper and electronic petition containing 876 signatures requesting the Council to reduce waiting times for Council house repairs in line with other regional local authorities.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Sophie Thornton who outlined various issues and concerns relating to people waiting for long periods of time for housing repairs, including someone being without a shower for over six weeks, water leaks and roof leaks. She explained the effects on people and their families including in relation to their physical and mental health.




She said that the problem appeared to affect many people and that the petition showed the widespread dissatisfaction with the housing repairs service. She said that the Council could address the issues by admitting that there was a problem and apologising and committing to address the problems. She asked what the Council was going to do to tackle the issue.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Paul Wood (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety).




Councillor Wood apologised to the tenants including those mentioned by Sophie Thornton. He said he did not want to comment on individual cases, but would carry out investigations into each case.




Councillor Wood stated that the high average waiting time Sophie Thornton referred to applied to only one sector of repairs within the Housing Service. He said prior to COVID-19 the average waiting time across all sectors was 15.09 days; however, it was now 17.84 days. Councillor Wood stated that some increases in waiting times were due to tenants requesting their own supplies, which then needed to be ordered before work can be done.




Councillor Wood said that due to COVID-19, two sectors of the Housing Repairs service had been temporarily stopped, but were now due to be opened again. He said the Council would be creating extra capacity through offering over-time to existing staff and recruiting new Trade Operatives to fill vacancies. He added that 20 long-term apprentices were due to complete their qualification within the next month, and said that the Council was also considering increasing the work done with agency staff and sub-contractors. 




Councillor Wood encouraged increased engagement with local Councillors across the city. He said he would respond to the individual cases and to Sophie Thornton as lead petitioner in writing.




Petition Requesting Road Safety Measures on Mortimer Road




The Council received a joint electronic and paper petition containing 375 signatures, requesting road safety measures on Mortimer Road.  Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Julie Firth, who informed the Council that Mortimer Road is an unclassified country lane, which in some places is single track, with steep bends and drops. She said the road was increasingly popular, and that some motorcyclists did not adhere to the speed limit. She said there have been a number of accidents on the road, despite signs warning of the dangers. Julie Firth stated the petitioners would like the speed limit reducing from 60mph to 50mph.




Julie Firth stated that the speed limit in the nearby village of Midhopestones was 30mph. She requested that the sign indicating the change in speed limit be moved further up the road to allow drivers more notice. She added that the petitioners would also like to see more warning signs, crash barriers and speed cameras.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Julie Grocutt (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development). Councillor Grocutt thanked Julie Firth for presenting the petition. She said that due to the number of road safety measure requests received, the Council had to assess and prioritise locations using a supporting evidence-based justification. She explained that the Council only had the budget to carry out three large area road safety schemes per year, and these were based on treating locations with high accident records.




Councillor Grocutt explained that Mortimer Road was almost 10 miles long, and that records show there had been 15 injury collisions across the 10-mile lane over the past 5 years. She said that there were areas across Sheffield with higher accident records and which must be treated as a priority. Councillor Grocutt said that changes had been made to Mortimer Road, including a new bend warning sign located on the first bend (after the Sugworth Rd turning when driving north). She added that maintenance work to clear overgrowing foliage had also been carried out, and bend marking posts had been replaced.




Councillor Grocutt said that the South Yorkshire Safety Camera Partnership was responsible for deciding on locations for safety cameras, as it assessed the locations of community concern. She said she would arrange for the details of the petition concerning Mortimer Road to be given to the Safety Camera Partnership.








Public Question Concerning City-Wide Landlord Licensing




Caty Murray (Branch Secretary), on behalf of ACORN Sheffield, asked Councillor Paul Wood if he would commit to introducing city-wide landlord licensing following ACORN’s accounts of bad landlords; presented to the Town Hall on Saturday 20th February.




Councillor Paul Wood (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety) responded and thanked Caty Murray for bringing this question to the Council. Councillor Wood said that the Council took private sector landlords and the quality of housing very seriously, and was committed to ensuring the highest standards for tenants both in private and public housing. He added that a Council accredited landlord scheme had been introduced.




Councillor Wood stated that there would be greater investment in private rented sector and enforcement teams and the Council budget showed the largest investment in recent years in the private rented sector. He explained that a working group had been set up to consider a city-wide licensing scheme, and the group will report back later in the year.  There would also be increased monitoring of the private rented sector. Councillor Wood asked Caty Murray to forward any reports and concerns through to him, or to the tenant’s local Councillor so these could be addressed.




Public Questions Concerning Proposed Job Losses at Rolls Royce




The Lord Mayor reported that Catherine Flannery and Dean Burgin had submitted questions concerning the proposed job losses at Rolls Royce. Both of them were not able to attend the Council meeting in person and Flis Callow would present the questions on behalf of Catherine Flannery and the questions of Dean Burgin would be dealt with in writing.




Flis Callow (on behalf of Catherine Flannery of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign) asked the following questions and read a letter sent to the Council:


“I am writing on behalf of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign about the proposed job losses at the Rolls Royce Advanced Blade Casting Facility at the Advanced Manufacturing Park. As Wednesday is the Council Budget meeting the threat of these job losses on top of those the city has already sustained is of particular importance. 




Sheffield City Council have given our campaign considerable support and solidarity and we have been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Council on many occasions to support our communities. We were extremely heartened, as you were, when the old and derelict Orgreave coking plant site was eventually going to be used for the benefit of our communities, providing local jobs and regenerating the area. 




The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign is most concerned to see the proposed losses of 75 jobs at the Rolls Royce Advanced Blade Casting Facility at the Advanced Manufacturing Park. The legacy of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike was huge job losses in this area, not just in the coal mining industry, but job losses as a result of the ripple down through the labour market. This had a devastating, heartbreaking and long lasting effect on many people's lives. The opening of the Advance Manufacturing Park in 2001 on the site of the Orgreave coking plant, the same site of the unprecedented use of police violence which this Council has condemned and called for the government to hold an inquiry into, has brought back some highly skilled jobs and some regeneration, one of the companies being the Rolls Royce Blade Casting Facility.




The Orgreave campaign stands shoulder to shoulder with Unite the Union who have been negotiating with Rolls Royce to stop these jobs losses. As trade unionists, we ask the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Business and Investment: 




1.       Does the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member oppose these job losses, particularly given the budget decisions you will be making on 3rd March about the economic well being of our city? 


2.       If so, has the Council expressed their concerns to Rolls Royce already?


3.       If not, will the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member contact Rolls Royce to do so?



4.       Will the Leader and Sheffield Labour Group publicly condemn these job losses? 


5.       Will the Leader and Sheffield Labour Group publicly express support for Unite the Union’s campaign against the job losses?”




Ms Callow requested both a verbal and written response to these questions.




Councillor Mazher Iqbal (Cabinet Member for Business and Investment) responded to these questions. Councillor Iqbal thanked Flis Callow for presenting the questions. He stated that he had spoken with one of her colleagues from the union the previous day. Councillor Iqbal stated that job losses and redundancies were a global, national and city-wide issue due to the effects of COVID-19.




Councillor Iqbal stated that due to lack of funding from Government, Council budgets had been reduced over eleven years. He said he was able to speak with Rolls Royce, but he could not confirm that this would have an impact. Councillor Iqbal explained he was not able to condemn the job losses as people were not being fired but were being made redundant. He added that due to government cuts, the Council was also making redundancies.




Councillor Iqbal offered to meet with the union to discuss any ways in which the Council may be able to support them and those facing redundancies.




Public Questions Concerning Bins and Public Spaces




Rebecca Atkinson asked the following questions:




1.       The Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for many more people out walking, running and cycling - enjoying Sheffield’s parks and public spaces. Our city's parks and trails have been a sanctuary during these difficult times. Enjoyment of the outdoors can and should be encouraged going forward. What plans are there for the future to further connect and promote our green spaces so that we can celebrate Sheffield as the outdoor city for residents and visitors to enjoy?


2.       A number of extra bins were promised for the Bolehills over three weeks ago, but these have not materialised. When will they arrive?


3.       Bins in parks across the city were full and overflowing across the weekend (27th - 28th Feb) – in the North West of the city residents have complained of littering due to shortage of bin space in Rivelin Valley, Crookes Valley Park and the Bolehills. What has the Council done to increase bin capacity in our parks and public spaces in Sheffield over the past year?


4.       A lot of the material being put in the bins this weekend consisted of cardboard, aluminium cans and glass bottles. These are valuable materials that are widely recycled. Can we have more segregated bins for recycling in our parks, please?




Councillor Mary Lea (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure) responded to these questions. She stated that the use of parks in Sheffield had increased significantly during the last year. Councillor Lea explained that there is a proposal for a Better Parks project to raise income for parks and to bring more facilities into parks. She added that over the past few years there had been an additional £400,000 per year of public health funding into Sheffield’s parks. This investment would continue over the next two years, focused on areas where health had been poorest. Councillor Lea added that the General Cemetery had been the recipient of a Lottery Grant as a Heritage Site within Sheffield.




Councillor Lea thanked all friends of Sheffield’s parks, including those who litter pick. She added that the Council worked closely with those groups. Councillor Lea stated that park activities will be developed over the next month and introduced over the summer, with a focus on children.




In response to the bins at Bolehills, Councillor Lea stated that the bin delivery had been delayed but that they would be installed as soon as possible.




Councillor Lea acknowledged that good weather at the end of February had increased use of the bins. She added that in response to increased use of Sheffield parks, more options to tackle litter had been implemented over the last year. She stated that over 20 permanent litter bins were installed, with a further 10 bins planned for the west of the city. 15 large temporary bins were also added. Councillor Lea said that additional weekend staff were put in place to increase litter collections, and additional temporary staff had been recruited in anticipation of the increased use of Sheffield’s parks throughout summer 2021. She added that toilet and equipment cleaning had also been increased, alongside the ‘take your litter home’ campaign. Further measures were planned for this summer, including temporary bins where access was possible and in accordance with health and safety measures.




Councillor Lea stated that people taking litter home is the best thing to do; however, the Council would look at what could be done to increase recycling facilities in Sheffield parks. She added that the ‘Cleaner, Greener, Safer’ project would be introduced in four areas of the city and that a pilot was currently in progress. 




Public Questions Concerning Referendum, November Full Council and Youth Services




Ruth Hubbard asked the following questions:




1.       Sheffield People's Referendum


          Across the country councils of all political hues operate under more democratic modern committee governance.  Here in Sheffield the current administration has one of the smallest electoral mandates of any council in the country where, under strong leader governance, over 90% of citizens have no rights to representation via their elected councillor in almost all decision-making.  That's why citizens and communities working together have taken away this council's right to decide the way it works.  The latest council changing to more democratic modern committee governance is Labour-led Cheshire East who are currently piloting their new committee system.  Labour-led Newham also have a change of governance referendum (by choice) on 6th May. I was one of the speakers at the launch of their modern committee campaign, in their case almost wholly led by progressive labour supporters and activists.  In Sheffield, branches and CLPs have passed motions to get rid of "strong leader" governance, and Labour supporters in the city widely support change and have been part of our community campaign. Although driven by the majority not linked to any party, is the new leader aware of the widespread (local and national) Labour support for change, along with other political party supporters, for getting rid of undemocratic, top-down strong leader governance?




2.       Action following November Full Council 


          In January I asked about the incidents in November's full council when a member of the public presenting a petition was, in my view, humiliated and bullied in response by the then Leader, and what actions (if any) were taken, including by the Monitoring Officer, following those incidents.  In response to my question I was told about the political opportunism of the Lib Dems, but no answer to my question.  Likewise another member of the public in Cabinet, in pointing out the contradictions in the treatment of petitioners and asking for a clear protocol was told his question would be treated as a statement, not a question.  Am I to assume that no action was taken by anyone following the November incident, and that no protocol in the treatment of petitioners will be agreed?




3.       Youth Services 


          In September I asked about Youth Services being brought 'in-house' and the loss of significant stakeholders and partners in running the service, concerns about council in-house expertise and understanding of youth work, and about strategic and operational links with community and volunteer-run youth provision across the city (and in diverse communities) especially given the massive cuts in youth work of the last ten years.  I received full, but very general, answers and clearly the priority at that time was managing the transfer.


          (a)  Can you please tell me how many managers and workers employed by the new service are JNC-recognised professional youth workers?

          (I notice that the advert for a new Head of Youth Services does not require applicants to have a professional youth work qualification)


          (b)  Sheffield Futures was run by a multi-agency Board, in bringing services in-house how have the benefits of that been built in or replicated?


          (c)  What are the mechanisms through which community-led youth service providers can be part of actively shaping and contributing to a better city youth work strategy and delivery of services?




Councillor Terry Fox (Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance and Deputy Leader of the Council) stated that he had responded on many occasions that the work that the ‘It’s Our City’ campaign had done was to be commended. He said that all City Councillors democratically and passionately represented all residents in Sheffield and made decisions such as in respect of planning and licensing and audit and standards matters or sitting on scrutiny committees to scrutinise the work of the Council’s Cabinet. Councillor Fox thanked all Councillors for the work they do.




Councillor Bob Johnson (the Leader of the Council) responded to Ruth Hubbard’s questions and said that if any complaints were received by the Monitoring Officer about the conduct of any Member, including following the November Council meeting, these would be considered in line with the Council’s procedures. Standards were the remit of the Audit and Standards Committee and the process was independent of Cabinet Members.




Councillor Johnson said that with regard to a protocol concerning petitions, he would be pleased to see whether that was feasible and he would discuss the matter with officers and other political groups.




Councillor Abtisam Mohamed (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills) stated that there were 4 managers and 14 workers with the recognised qualifications referred to in Ruth Hubbard’s questions. She added that multi-agency working was continuing on a localised level at present. However, the Council was looking to have a multi-agency board involving stakeholders established following a consultation.




In relation to how people can actively get involved, Councillor Mohamed stated that the Council really wanted community groups to be as actively involved as possible. A consultation would be undertaken to help shape the design of youth services in Sheffield. She asked Ruth Hubbard to let her know if she was aware of any groups who did not yet know the dates of activities such as the workshops that were due to take place and stated she would then share those details with them. The Council wanted to make sure local communities were involved to help shape and design how youth services would look locally, recognising that different areas had different needs.




Supporting documents: