Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



Public Question in respect of Governance




Russell Johnson commented that, having recently spent time in Newcastle and Liverpool, comparable cities having suffered similar austerity to Sheffield, it seemed to him that they were much more successful in providing vibrant and attractive places for their citizens than Sheffield, with better public transport, care for historic buildings, better cultural offer and many other aspects.




Mr Johnson asked whether this was because of unimaginative, arrogant and insular governance which failed to listen to other parties and had a moribund cadre of officers, in Mr Johnson’s view almost certainly guilty of malfeasance associated with the Streets Ahead PFI? Mr Johnson therefore asked if the Leader believed it was time for her to review her position, or at least announce that she would not be standing as a candidate in next May’s local election?




As a point of order, Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, asked whether Mr Johnson should be allowed to accuse officers of maladministration in a public meeting? Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, added that, for Mr Johnson to make comments such as this, he needed to present evidence to substantiate this claim.




The Leader of the Council, Councillor Julie Dore, responded that the electorate of Sheffield would decide the administration of its City and, ultimately, the Leader of the Council. Councillor Dore would not be taking any further questions from Mr Johnson at this time following his remarks about Council officers.




Public Question in respect of Student Accommodation




Nigel Slack referred to agenda item 14 on the agenda for today’s meeting in respect of Disposal of Land at 210 Rockingham Street. He commented that, at the last meeting of Full Council, he had asked the Council whether we still needed another 2000+ beds in the City. The response from the Cabinet Member commented on this scheme following a well tried formula for mixed developments but did not address that question of demand. Mr Slack therefore asked what was the current student bed capacity in this type of accommodation in the City? How many students are currently attending the two Universities? Were the Council aware of reports that many of these student blocks were operating at less than maximum capacity? If this information was not known, how could people be confident in this proposed development?




Mr Slack further referred to the confidential appendix in the report and commented that he would challenge the idea that every word of the exempted material was commercially sensitive. The approach of wholesale exemption from the public, and presumably non-Cabinet Councillors, did not promote full transparency and was, therefore, bad for the perception of democracy in the decision making process. Will the Council review this practice of wholesale exemption?




Mr Slack further commented that a number of paragraphs in the report stated that this was a student housing development, contrary to the comments made by the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development at the last Full Council meeting. Was this a student development or a mixed scheme?




Mr Slack then referred to paragraph 3.1.2 of the report which stated ‘The development of new purpose built student accommodation can also have a longer term impact by releasing traditional housing stock situated outside of the city centre back into the private market.’ Mr Slack asked was there any evidence for this statement in the Sheffield housing market or was it another anecdotal comment not supported by facts?




Mr Slack then referred to paragraph 4.1 of the report which stated ‘There had been no formal consultation’. Mr Slack commented that this implied that there had been some informal consultation. Was this the case?




Councillor Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Transport and Development, responded that he had recently commissioned a Student Residential Strategy which would be submitted to Cabinet in due course which would provide the answers to Mr Slack’s questions.




Public Question in respect of Mount Pleasant




Nigel Slack commented that he was still awaiting responses from his questions to the Scrutiny Committee meeting which had discussed the Mount Pleasant site in March 2018, this despite assurances from the previous Deputy Leader on 17 April and the current Leader on 17 July to chase the matter. Mr Slack attached the questions concerned, which were circulated to Cabinet and asked that the responses be expedited.




The Leader of the Council, Councillor Julie Dore, apologised to Mr Slack as she did not have the questions from the meeting but would provide a response in due course.




Public Question in respect of Cladding




Nigel Slack asked, with recent further serious issues over aluminium cladding, this time with a student block in Bolton, what response had the Council received to their enquiries about the safety of private residential blocks using aluminium cladding in Sheffield and when will the report on the Hanover cladding inquiry be published?




The Leader of the Council, Councillor Julie Dore, commented that, unfortunately, the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety (Councillor Paul Wood) was not in attendance at the meeting to provide a detailed answer. She was aware that the publication of the report into the Hanover cladding was imminent. She would respond in writing if there was any further information available from Councillor Wood.