Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

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




The Deputy Chair (Councillor Terry Fox) invited members of the public to ask the questions which they had submitted prior to the start of the meeting.




Public Question Regarding Governance – The Quality Monitoring of the Streets Ahead Contract




Russell Johnson stated that, at the Council meeting two weeks ago, he posed a perfectly serious question regarding the continuing poor state of many of Sheffield’s roads, despite almost 8 years of huge sums of public money being poured into Amey. He had referred the Leader of the Council to an article published in December in the Sheffield Star newspaper, and which he hoped the Leader had had time to read.




Mr. Johnson added that, sadly, the Leader, rather than make any attempt to provide a meaningful answer, had merely resorted to a flimsy anecdote about her own personal driving experience.




Mr. Johnson stated that he now sought a serious response: is the lack of proper supervision and challenge to Amey by Officers under the Council’s direction the cause of continued failed delivery on contract requirements? Why has Sheffield not acted responsibly in this respect and disentangled itself from this disastrous PFI, as Birmingham has done? Does the Deputy Leader understand why some people have discerned the stench of corruption around this apparent paradox?




Public Question Regarding the Tree Felling Injunction & Unjust Costs




Russell Johnson stated that since the basis of the Injunction is now seriously questioned because the veracity of some of the evidence presented by Sheffield City Council representatives in the High Court has been questioned, partly due to Freedom Of Information requests, of which more are in the pipeline, SCC Officers have recently again persisted in seeking to collect extortionate costs from two citizens, for breaching of this unsound, in his view, Injunction.  He added that one of those people is appearing in court next week, under constant threat.  He asked that, in view of the climate of co-operation now achieved around the tree destruction scandal, would it not be appropriate, as an act of generosity by the Council and in the climate of rapprochement, for the Council to use its discretion to waive those costs?



Public Question Regarding Corporate Hospitality




Russell Johnson commented that a ‘Rotten Boroughs’ feature in a London magazine recently highlighted the Leader of the Council’s eleven acceptances of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s hospitality. In the same period, only two similar visits to Sheffield United Football Club were declared.  Mr. Johnson asked what ‘Business Interests’ are being promoted, and why the apparent partiality in this matter?




Public Questions Regarding the Leader’s Awareness of Freedom of Information Releases, and the Process for Asking Public Questions




Chris Parkinson stated that, at the last Council meeting, he attempted to ask a genuine question that was based on facts readily available in the public domain, but unfortunately he was shouted down by the Leader of the Council.  This interruption was made before he had even begun to raise the substance of the question and it had surprised him that a person in such a powerful position was prepared and happy to shout down a member of the public despite them being hardly aware of the contents of the question.  This had led to Mr. Parkinson taking time to think about the pervasive aggression among councillors towards the public and the apparent contempt with which the public is treated, and he added that he would like, later, to suggest some ways of changing this.  He stated that he would like to hear answers to his question and to know more about the way councillors are kept informed of developing issues.




Mr. Parkinson commented that, in direct connection to his question asked at full Council, could he ask the Leader “when data, emails, correspondence etc is released through the Freedom Of Information process, to what extent is the Cabinet and the Leader briefed?  Is it an overview of all FOIs or is it only on some FOIs which might be considered especially sensitive, such as the large number of releases made recently regarding the, arguably illegal and scandalous, programme of tree felling in Sheffield?”




Mr. Parkinson also asked has the Leader, or Cabinet, now caught up with the FOI he made reference to in full Council on 4th February, and does she accept that his question was based in fact and on information in the public domain.  If so, would it be reasonable to expect an apology for her less than professional behaviour at full Council, as one would be graciously received.  It would also, he felt, serve to placate wider Cabinet-public relations.




Lastly, Mr. Parkinson wished to relay to the Cabinet how frustrating it is for members of the public to ask questions at the full Council meeting.  The scene before the start of Council and the process for question submission is often one of chaos and disorganisation.  Paper forms are rarely available, there are few places to write questions down, and it is difficult to identify to whom to submit questions.  There is a lack of guidance generally.  He suggested that, if one were to be anxious or conspiratorial, one might be forgiven for thinking it is a deliberate attempt to obstruct the public asking questions and scrutinising the Cabinet, something reinforced by the general attitude observed within the Chamber where Councillors are jeering, which he felt was a disgrace.  Mr. Parkinson concluded by stating that, conscious of not wanting to waste tax payers money, he wished to submit a suggestion sheet of how this process might be improved so as to avoid unnecessary planning and review committees to discuss this matter further.  He passed his suggestion sheet to the Deputy Chair, and outlined some of the practical suggestions he had made.




Public Questions from Mr. Buxton




Mr. Buxton stated that he wished for answers to be provided to the questions asked by Mr. Johnson and Mr. Parkinson, prior to him asking his own questions.




The Deputy Chair (Councillor Terry Fox) twice asked Mr. Buxton to ask his questions, and Mr. Buxton declined to do so until the previous questions had been answered.






At this point in the proceedings (at approximately 2.20 p.m.), in view of the disruption caused to the proceedings of the meeting, the Deputy Chair (Councillor Terry Fox) adjourned the meeting.  The meeting re-convened at approximately 2.35 p.m., with the meeting closed to the public for the remainder of the proceedings.)






The Deputy Chair (Councillor Terry Fox) asked that arrangements be made for written answers to be provided to the questions which had been submitted by members of the public.