Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

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




The Chair (Councillor Julie Dore) invited two members of the public to ask questions which they had submitted prior to the start of the meeting.  Additional questions received shortly before the start of the meeting from another member of the public would be answered in writing after the meeting.




Public Questions Regarding the Taxi Trades (Ibrar Hussain)




(a)      What representation has been made to the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), or its Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) regarding the delays in the implementation of the City Centre Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in light of the covid-19 situation and economic meltdown.  The taxi trade is on its knees in Sheffield and will take years to recover. What consideration is the City Council giving?




(b)      When will the Licensing Service in Sheffield move onto an online service, as our neighbouring authority, Rotherham, are now leading?  After years of neglect, and wasted funds from licence fees, there is still no progress.  As regards the  separation of general licensing from the taxi and private hire section, when will that happen, as it was agreed this will go ahead in 2019, supported by the taxi trade, yet to date, there has just been delays with no real action?




(c)      On every attempt that the taxi trade has asked for a complete breakdown of the licensing service accounts in detail, why has nothing been provided, but doors shut in our face? What’s to hide, and when will this happen?




(d)      Why is every other authority paying existing taxi drivers with schools, but Sheffield city council is not? What’s the issue?




(e)      With every petition I submitted to the City Council, why has there been no detailed response made?  Accountability progress through scrutiny to challenge Cabinet Members to account and Council officers does not exist.  This needs to be robust, and implemented urgently.




Councillor Bob Johnson (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development) responded as follows:-


(a)           The Council was in the process of reviewing its position, as were a number of other cities, with regard to its Clean Air Zone proposals. A public announcement would be made in the coming weeks.


(b)           The current situation provided an ideal time for the Council to review its IT services regarding the various licensing functions, and he stated that he would chase this issue up with officers in the Licensing Service. Councillor Terry Fox (Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance) added that the Council had to prioritise the roll out of IT equipment to those staff needing it the most, and that he would work with Councillor Johnson on this issue.


(c)           He stated that he would talk to officers in the Licensing Service in connection with the provision of a complete breakdown of the Service’s accounts.


(d)           He stated that he had not been made aware of this issue, and would therefore welcome any examples of cases within local authorities where they were paying drivers to attend schools. He also confirmed that Mr Hussain had received a written response on the query from Councillor Abtisam Mohamed (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills).


(e)           He apologised if there had been instances where Mr Hussain had not received detailed, written responses following the submission of petitions, and requested the details of cases where this had happened. He also stated that not all petitions would be considered by a Scrutiny Committee.




Public Question Regarding Covid-19




Mike Hodson stated that the recent Public Health England Protocol for testing and contact tracing says that local authorities and Directors of Public Health (DPH) in particular will be expected to 'engage with communities'; a key action which many public health experts have been suggesting for some time was an essential aspect of an effective 'case-finding - testing - contact-tracing - isolation' strategy.




In view of the recent admission that infection rates [the R-figure] and other measures of the severity of Coronavirus, do vary between different parts of the country, and the fact that the R-figure in South Yorkshire is apparently close to the critical rate of 1, will the Cabinet endorse the line taken by other local authorities and initiate a South Yorkshire-related strategy divergent from the over-centralised Government one? - in particular relating to the initiation of a local Test-Trace-Isolate-Support process in partnership with local community and support groups?




Councillor Julie Dore (the Leader of the Council) responded by stating that more and more people were becoming aware of the various test and trace strategies. She referred to her statement made at the start of the meeting, regarding all the excellent work undertaken in response to the pandemic so far, particularly the work undertaken within local communities. Any work the Authority took in this regard would be in collaboration with its South Yorkshire partners, through the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (SYLRF). Whilst Sheffield liked to take its own approach, the Council would always look at examples of good practice adopted by other local authorities, whilst being mindful that all authorities were different. Councillor Dore acknowledged the fact that Mr Hodson was currently in dialogue with Greg Fell (Director of Public Health), and that the Council welcomed all such contributions from local residents. She confirmed that the Council would look at the approach taken by other local authorities, and that there would be a joint South Yorkshire approach. Councillor Dore concluded by thanking Mr Hodson for his contributions, stressing the importance of local input in terms of finding the best solutions.