Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions Relating to the Issues to be Discussed

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public relating to the Issues to be discussed.


(NOTE: There is a time limit of up to 30 minutes for the above item of business. In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website, questions/petitions at the meeting are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on 19th December 2023).



The Leader welcomed the public questioners and explained the format of the meeting. After the public questions have been presented there will be a statement from the Leader reflecting on the feedback from stakeholders and the August 2023 meeting. Following this, the other party/group leaders will be invited to comment.  Officers will then introduce the next two items together for discussion and approval: Equality Framework – Equality is Everyone’s Business; and Race Equality in Our Council.


Sahail Chohan and Jawed Siddiqi attended the meeting to ask the following questions that they had submitted:


The Race Equality Commission released its final report on 14 July 2022. The report found that racism remains deep-seated and prevalent in all key institutions in Sheffield. Evidence from this report highlighted the urgent  need for SCC to put together an action plan to tackle the existing racial disparities. We note with concern that little progress has been made within the council and see no evidence that the council is aware of any progress within the other key institutions (public or private sector).


Can you guarantee the citizens of Sheffield that you will meet the pledges of the Race Equality commission report and endeavour to become an anti-racist city by July 2025?

Does SCC have a strategy with clear objectives and deadlines and an agreed budget allocated to help support the work proposed by the Race Equality commission report?

Will you actively pursue invitations to all the council’s large public sector organisations, businesses, trade unions, community organisations particularly BAME communities - including those that actively participated in  this process - and members of the public to open meetings, to discuss the concerns raised by the REC report ahead of the Strategy and Resources Committee meeting pencilled for March 2024?

How do you propose to operate in the future so that there is significant involvement of key stakeholders relating to all protected characteristics?




The Leader thanked the questioners for attending and presenting their questions.  He indicated that he would answer the questions now presented in the statement he was about to make and go on to introduce the next two items.


Firstly, thank you to all of the residents and community organisations who are passionate about tackling racism in our city. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for your tireless work to bring about change. I’d like to thank all of the former members of the commission for their hard work and service to the city, and to all of the staff, residents and partner organisations across the city who have worked with us and who will continue to work with us in our ongoing efforts to become the anti-racist organization and anti-racist city that we have committed to become.


Sheffield City Council is the city’s premier convening organisation. It is incumbent on us to take a leadership role in race equality and people rightly expect us to. In August, I reflected that not enough of that had happened since the Race Equality Commission report was published. We should have been the first mover, we weren’t. As the Leader of the Council, it is my utmost priority to help eradicate all forms of racism within Sheffield. I believe that collectively we can and must achieve this, it will take time, but together we can bring our diverse communities together and create an inclusive city for everyone.


As Leader, I also have a role in promoting standards of conduct, including inclusion. I’ve centred this in my thinking since taking up this role in May. Since this committee met in August to discuss the Race Equality Commission, I have made time to listen, think about and learn more about the experiences of staff in this Council and residents across Sheffield. At that meeting we heard that residents wanted us to show leadership and ownership. They were disappointed and frustrated that quicker progress wasn’t made by the whole city on the legacy body and sceptical that the Council was committed to race equality. I understand that entirely. Today, and going forward, I hope that residents will see that progress is being made.


Sheffield Stand Up to Racism have asked us a series of questions today and in their August petition. In the petition they asked that we provide an action plan with appropriate budget and deadlines and a plan for how anchor organisations will respond to and meet the recommendations of the Race Equality Commission. Today they’ve asked us to affirm that we’ll meet the promises we’ve previously made and become anti-racist.


Our Race Equality in Our Council report, which we are considering today, speaks directly to the feedback we have had and directly answers these questions. We are unequivocal in our position: we are going to be an anti-racist organisation, we are going to be an anti-racist employer and we are going to support Sheffield to become an anti-racist city. This is clear through the statements of intent the report asks us to agree, champion and hold each other to account against. The report provides clear objectives, clear actions and clear deadlines, supported by budget, which come together as a multifaceted approach to guide our future work and complete the Race Equality Commission’s recommendations.


The report shows us the progress against each of the qualities the Race Equality Commission told us an anti-racist organisation would have as a minimum. This offers me reassurance that we’re going the right way and have the potential to become the organisation we want to be. But the question then becomes – how? How will we get there? I am glad to see we have over 30 specific actions in this report to help us move forward. This report links specific activity to responsibilities and further work, and sets us up to show we can deliver against these serious set of actions. The report is about us and this Council. While some of the actions might seem very focused on us, they are about how we change our ways of working and our culture for the benefit of everyone in the city. Other anchor organisations are doing similar work to plan their approach.


Lots of organisations in this city contribute a huge amount to residents. And those organisations are facing challenges today and have faced challenges for a long time. The Race Equality Commission pointed to historic funding inequities, we have started to address these through being more open about to whom we give grants, and positive work between our procurement teams and diverse business board is taking place, but there’s more to do. That is why we are conducting both a review of our relationships with the voluntary and community sector and faith organisations, and it’s why the governance committee have a programme of work on engagement. But I am clear that changing how we work doesn’t mean putting more of a burden on key partner organisations. Our work must be to support black and minoritised ethnic led organisations to thrive, and to make things fairer for them, not harder.

The Race Equality Partnership for Sheffield, which is a shared endeavour across the city, is now being implemented following the tireless work of the legacy body task-and-finish group over the last 6 months. The process of appointments for key roles is forthcoming from the Partnership and will be open, fair and transparent. It will provide the forum for residents, community groups, public and private sector organisations, stakeholders and others to work together on a level footing. It will allow organisations to share their work, learn from best practice and ensure that we are moving forward as a city.


Through the Partnership, our engagement work, review of relationships with voluntary and community sector and faith organisations, our diverse business board and ongoing direct meetings, we are and will continue to regularly come together with partners and communities across our great city to discuss and take action to accelerate race equality, work with and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, and achieve the goals of our Equality Framework.


Before I handover to Councillor Mohammed and Councillor Johnson for their reflections, I want to highlight the accountability section of the report. This reminds elected members of our power and our responsibility. It is within our gift to ask about race and equality at every committee meeting and in all other council meetings and forums we are in. That might sound like a small thing to do, it isn’t. It would set a standard and tell people what we value. If every meeting has proper, thoughtful consideration of these things we will see them integrated into everything we do, and every report we see.


This is important because people will rightly judge us by our words, but crucially also by our actions. Next year I want us to be able to look back on a year where we’ve seen action around race equality in the Council, in our Groups and in these formal settings. I want to see that officers and members have grabbed the opportunity this report gives us. This work is ongoing, we aren’t going to be done next year or the year after, but if we each take these steps we will accelerate change. That is the task at hand for all of us.


And every one of us here should use our influence to make sure that happens. Because even when we may not be in complete agreement, we have the same goal of tackling racism and making this an inclusive city for all.


Councillor Mohammed, thanked the questioners for attending and the work that they do to hold the Council accountable.  Any form of discrimination holds the city back and prevents us reaching our potential and must be tackled.  The importance of visiting students to the city, some of which become prominent business people and politicians and the importance of their lived experience of the city was recognised. The key to success will be the lived experiences of local communities.  It is recognised that the Council did not move quick enough and we must take that on board.  There is also a responsibility for organisations beyond the Council.


Councillor Johnson thanked the questioners and the other Members for their comments. He reflected on the historical position and welcomed the statements and actions proposed in the reports as we move towards being an anti-racist city, not before time. He referred to the statistics that show the demographic changes happening in the city. In particular, he referred to census information in respect of schools and in housing.  Whilst there is still a way to go there is a developing change of culture in the Council, moving away from defensiveness, which is welcome and very important as we move towards our goal of becoming an anti-racist organisation.


The Leader summarised by confirming the cross party support for cultural change.  We will be judged by our actions and the report contains 30 proposed actions to hold us to account on. We are keen to have an ongoing conversation with you the questioners and the communities you represent. Officers then went on to present the two reports.