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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.

Minutes:

4.1

Lord Mayor’s Communications

 

 

 

Councillors Shaffaq Mohammed and Andrew Sangar

 

 

 

The Lord Mayor (Councillor Talib Hussain) reported that Councillors Shaffaq Mohammed and Andrew Sangar had both been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Dissolution Honours List 2015 for political service and congratulated both of them on behalf of the Council.

 

 

 

Councillors Jack Scott and Jenny Armstrong

 

 

 

The Lord Mayor (Councillor Talib Hussain), on behalf of the Council, congratulated Councillors Jack Scott and Jenny Armstrong, who were recently married.

 

 

 

 

4.2

Petitions

 

 

 

Petition Opposing Cuts in Bus Services (1)

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 815 signatures opposing the cuts in bus services.

 

 

 

Representations of behalf of the petitioners were made by Sharron Milsom who stated that the proposals regarding bus services represented cuts of between 8 and 10 percent and although some concessions had been made in respect of certain bus services, most of the reductions were to be implemented. The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport website referred to the proposals as service improvements, which she stated was confusing and misleading. There was no way of seeing what was planned in relation to bus services and most people seemed to be unaware of the changes. The consultation regarding the proposals had been inadequate. The consequences for disabled people were of concern in circumstances where parts of some bus routes had been removed. Whilst the dial a ride service was provided for people who had difficulty using mainstream public transport, this was limited to two pre-booked journeys each week. She questioned whether the Equalities Impact Assessment relating to the changes had been adequate and stated that the changes should be halted and that further consultation was required.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Terry Fox, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport.

 

 

 

Petition Opposing Cuts in Bus Services (2)

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 2817 signatures opposing the cuts in bus services.

 

 

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Andy Nash. He stated that people had heard about changes to bus services too late and some places would cease to be connected by bus services. He made specific reference to service numbers 83 and 70. The reduction in bus services might result in increased car use and contribute to congestion and air pollution and many people would be affected, including people wishing to travel to hospital, older people and disabled people. Those on low income or working part time would be particularly affected. The consultation had not been effective as it had taken place over a short time period and people had been given only a limited time to respond. There was not useful information regarding the changes on bus stops, except for timetables. Clear information was required so that people were informed of changes to bus services. He stated that he believed Sheffield had taken a backward step in comparison to other cities and that people’s views should be taken into consideration.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Terry Fox, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport. Councillor Fox stated that the consultation could have been better in respect of how it was done, where it took place and who was involved. There was publicity regarding the changes to services and the Council had talked to service users. An Equalities Impact Assessment was also considered. Members had a statutory duty to take account of the protected characteristics under the Equalities Act 2010.

 

 

 

The proposals sought to establish a stable public transport network and there had been over 2 million additional paying passengers within the voluntary partnership agreement in Sheffield. It was considered a requirement that in Sheffield there should be a city wide multi-use ticket, priced at £2 per day and for an additional £1, tram travel would be included. This represented a reduction in the cost of bus fares. Having been re-examined, a bus service would go from Dore to the Hallamshire Hospital. Councillor Fox also stated that a strategy for low emission zones would be released soon. Councillor Fox concluded by saying that consultation could and should be done better.

 

 

 

Petition Requesting a Review of the COMPASS Asylum Housing Contract

 

The Council received a petition containing 37 signatures requesting a review of the COMPASS asylum housing contract.

 

Representations on behalf of the petitioners were received from John Grayson. He referred to a motion passed by Glasgow City Council, which had called for an urgent review of the COMPASS contract for asylum housing. The petition requested Sheffield City Council to also pass a motion calling for such a review. Such a motion would include the preparation of proposals for the Home Office asylum housing contract, which was in line with the needs of people seeking asylum, ahead of the renewal of the contract which would take place in 2017.

 

Mr Grayson said that G4S had a poor record with regards the implementation of the contract for asylum housing in Sheffield, including rats in houses and asbestos and referred to the impact on people’s health, treatment of women who were pregnant and of people forced to share a bedroom. He referred to a specific case to illustrate the treatment of an asylum seeker by housing them in a poor quality property and made reference to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s opinion of the quality of provision by G4S. Mr Grayson stated that there was an opportunity for the Council and other partner organisations to develop a good contract for asylum housing which the Home Office could put forward.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Housing. Councillor Dunn stated that she fully supported the points that had been made. She reassured the petitioners that Council officers would meet with the Home Office in the next few weeks and agreed that discussion was needed concerning the quality of housing for asylum seekers. With regard to shared rooms, a legal agreement was being put together and a motion would be put to a Council meeting on the subject of accommodation for asylum seekers.

 

 

4.3

Public Questions

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning Accommodation for Asylum Seekers

 

 

 

Stuart Crosthwaite stated that at the Council meeting on 25 March 2015, Councillor Mazher Iqbal had said that the Council would end the practice of forced bedroom sharing in asylum housing in Sheffield. He asked when the City Council would be taking steps to end the practice of G4S forcing bedroom sharing by amending the Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licenses of existing G4S properties so as to ban bedroom sharing.

 

 

 

Violet Dickenson asked how many asylum seekers in G4S housing had been affected by the practice of room sharing.

 

 

 

Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Housing, responded by stating that she would like to reassure people that a new system relating to asylum accommodation would be in place by the end of September 2015. New asylum seekers were not being placed in shared bedrooms.

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning Highways Construction in High Green

 

 

 

Barrie Bellamy, representing High Green Development Trust, stated that highways construction works were taking place on Pack Horse Lane in connection with the building of a new leisure centre and he asked why stakeholders had not been involved or given an opportunity to put their opinions.

 

 

 

Councillor Terry Fox, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, stated that he had spoken with the relevant Council officers in this regard and as a result, the officers would be meeting with people locally, including the ward Councillors as part of a site visit to ascertain the impact of the highways works. The local Councillors would report the outcome of that site visit to him as Cabinet Member.

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning Costs of Property Repairs

 

 

 

Richard Perks stated that he was a leaseholder living in a property in Parson Cross and the block in which he lived consisted of six flats. A new door entry system was recently installed by Kier, using sub-contractors and the charge to the Council was £13,734 for each door. The Council had also signed an agreement with a Burnley based company for roofing repairs to Council properties in the north of Sheffield only. The charge was £67,976,206.27. He asked how the Council could justify such charges in an age of austerity.

 

 

 

Councillor Jayne Dunn, the Cabinet Member for Housing, stated that the quote to leaseholders to which Mr Perks had referred was being reviewed. The roofing repairs work was subject to a competitive tender and included the roofing works, replacement of roofs and insulation for 32,000 homes. Councillor Dunn said that she would send a detailed response to Mr Perks in writing.

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning Bus Service to Longley Hall Farm

 

 

 

Lisa Banes referred to the withdrawal of buses to Longley Hall estate which would affect people including older and disabled people, who would have to walk a mile to access a bus route.

 

 

 

Councillor Terry Fox, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, stated that routes to the community on Longley Hall Farm were to be restored and he thanked local people in that area who took part in the consultation regarding proposals for bus services.

 

 

 

Public Questions Concerning Child Protection

 

 

 

Martin Brighton stated that the Council Leader had said in June that it was Council policy that complainants or whistleblowers must not be targeted and gagged. He asked if the Council could confirm, with evidence, that those who have reported possible and actual abuse of school pupils have not been targeted or gagged.

 

 

 

Mr Brighton stated that on 3 December 2014, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, stated “if any concerns about child protection, please get in touch with me”. He asked: has any person or group since then raised any such concerns and have those concerns since been resolved; and given the local and regional current and historical concerns about child safeguarding, can the Council be absolutely certain that there are not, nor have been any attempts made to cover up reports of child safeguarding concerns in any way, including supressing the complaints or targeting the complainants?

 

 

 

Councillor Jackie Drayton, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, stated that her response to Mr Brighton had referred to him informing her as Cabinet Member, if he had concerns relating to a child protection matter. She said that Mr Brighton had not contacted her in this regard. However, if he did have such concerns, he should make contact with her.  

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning Organisational Culture and Whistleblowing

 

 

 

Martin Brighton stated that from the Government response to the 9th Report of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee 2014/15, the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council ruling party and administration were determined as having an ingrained culture of bullying, intimidation and denial. He asked, how is the Sheffield City Council ruling party any different?

 

 

 

Paragraphs 74 and 75 of that report refer to examination of the conduct of Rotherham Borough Council officers who now work for other authorities and also of councillors in other authorities whose history determined culpability of wilful neglect and calls for investigation into those persons. Given the Council’s response to him from 5 November 2008, and since, how much progress has been made on the Government’s recommendations referred to in paragraphs 74 and 75, whilst ensuring politically independent scrutiny compliant to paragraph 78 and whistleblowing compliance to paragraph 80?

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning Resolution of Issues

 

 

 

Martin Brighton stated that in the Chamber, the Council Leader was asked how many of the issues raised by him via questions to the Council Leader had been resolved. The Leader declined to say. However, he stated that, had the Leader said ‘one’, it would have been a gross exaggeration. He asked “would the Leader please explain this giant zero to this Chamber.”

 

 

 

Public Question Concerning ‘Whitelisting’

 

 

 

Mr Brighton requested that the Council note that the practice of whitelisting has been seen working within the housing department and take appropriate action.

 

 

 

Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, responded to all of the questions which Mr Brighton had asked and informed him that in view of the serious nature of the issues raised, he would receive a written response and this would also apply to questions asked at Cabinet meetings.

 

 

 

Petition

 

 

 

Petition requesting the Felling of a Tree Outside Nos. 6 and 8 Eyncourt Road

 

 

 

The Council received a petition containing 17 signatures requesting the felling of a tree outside Nos. 6 and 8 Eyncourt Road. There was no speaker to the petition.

 

 

 

The Council referred the petition to Councillor Terry Fox, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport. Councillor Fox responded that the petition showed that there were different views and circumstances relating to trees and that a balanced view was required.

 

 

Supporting documents: