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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public.



Air Quality Action Plan




Whilst recognising the effort that had gone into producing the Air Quality Action Plan, N Parry asked whether Cabinet were aware that a weakness within the Plan was a lack of quantification of the measures required to keep within the law in 2015.




Councillor Jack Scott (Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste and Streetscene) responded that whilst the Plan was a necessary starting point, further work such as the incorporation of the findings of the Low Emissions Feasibility Study, would be carried out to ensure compliance with recent European Commission changes.




Responses to Public Questions




N Slack asked (i) should it take over a week for the Council to respond to questions asked; (ii) did this show a Council paying lip service to the idea of open government; and (iii) what steps would be taken to ensure this attitude to the public changed?




Councillor Bryan Lodge (Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources) confirmed that a written response was currently being prepared but this would take time given the amount of information requested.  It was noted that some information could not be supplied as it was commercially sensitive.  He added that it had been 4 working days since the receipt of Mr Slack’s questions and protocol for written responses was 10 working days.




In relation to Mr Slack’s previous questions concerning Household Waste Recycling, Councillor Jack Scott (Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene) confirmed that he had signed a written response for dispatch.




Sheffield Somali Community Centre




M Ismail stated that the Sheffield Somali Community Centre had been informed that they would no longer receive a funding grant and that a month’s notice would be given on the Centre’s premises.  He asked what evidence had been taken into consideration when making the decision, and questioned whether the decision had been taken in a fair and transparent manner with due consideration given to the impact on equality and the needs of the vulnerable.




F Musa (for and on behalf of the Somali Women’s Group, Burngreave) asked why the Centre’s funding had been cut without consultation or consideration of the impact on isolated members of the Community.  She added that the Centre was used by the Somali Women’s Group to meet, socialise and raise awareness.




Councillor Harry Harpham stated that he was aware that the Sheffield Somali Community Centre had requested a meeting with the Leader and he was confident that she would be happy to meet with representatives on her return. 




In response to the questions asked, Councillor Mazar Iqbal (Cabinet Member for Communities and Inclusion) outlined the communication process that had taken place, starting in November 2010 with a letter from the Deputy Chief Executive to the VCF organisations, which explained the changes to the grant aid budget and the consultation process.  In March 2011, the Voluntary Sector Liaison Team had written to invite organisations to make an application and a further letter was sent setting out the information organisations were required to supply.  Responses were not received from the Centre and a set of Accounts subsequently supplied were not signed.  A further letter was sent in October 2011 and final payments made in February 2012.




Councillor Iqbal stated that the decision had not been taken lightly and it was important that the process was fair, open and transparent, with over 50 organisations being awarded grants He added that that one months notice had been paid as a gesture of goodwill and that a list of activities held at the Centre had been requested in order to assist in seeking alternative accommodation for them, but this had not been received to date. 




Councillor Iqbal concluded that he too was confident that a meeting with the Leader would be arranged with the Leader in the near future.




Council Contracts with Private Companies




Mr Slack raised further questions in relation to private contracts for Public Services and asked (i) whether these companies had been approached about the levels of profit they enjoyed from the public purse; (ii) had the Council attempted to negotiate with them on this and if not, would they undertake to do so before more job and service cuts were forced upon the City; and (iii) the reality of spending on Sheffield postcode companies given that most were subsidiaries of major global players.




Councillor Bryan Lodge (Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources) responded that the Council operated a mix of service arrangements in line with Authorities across the Country.  The contracting of services had facilitated innovative changes and improvements and that reduction in spending and efficiencies should not impact on the quality of service provided as outlined within provider Service Level Agreements.   He cited examples of the Capita IT support contract which had been independently verified as providing the lowest spend for the level of service and improvements within the Benefits and Revenues service.




In relation to the Highways PFI contract, Councillor Lodge stated that the tenders had been assessed against the delivery specification and AMEY had been judged the most competent to deliver.