Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



Members of the public raised questions as follows:-




James Biggin (Managing Director, Steel City)




Is this a pool about to be opened to the clubs – or is this their version of mothball?


·        The pools are almost certainly good to go – right now. Completely ready to train in – for any of the clubs

·        Bubble and tricklers are on (water circulation)

·        Pool is at temperature (give or take)

·        Lights are all fully on.

·        Might need a bit of a clean!


The importance of this submission is to say; Why is our battle to re-open what looks like is open! Staff are working there due to the break ins. Pool technicians are obviously working there or spending some of their working hours there.


The clubs have been quoted £90k per month to “reopen” – does this bring into question that sum? Does this help quell any type of unease for council money going to just Elite sport? What we all agree it is not our fight to have council money just to prop up Elite sport. It is to keep clubs in business that support the community, who then bring events to the city (2021), for the city economy to stay strong from the secondary spend!




Councillor Mary Lea (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure) reported that the Council would like to discuss the proposed re-opening of the facilities with Mr Biggin.  Councillor Lea stated that if the venue was to re-open, it would have to be available for use by everyone, and not just by the elite sporting clubs.  There were numerous other groups who used the facilities, and it was important that everyone had the opportunity to make best use of them.  Councillor Lea stressed the importance of the facilities re-opening, given their local and national importance, and stated that full details regarding the proposals would be included in a report to be submitted to the Cabinet at its meeting to be held on 23rd September 2020.




Charlie Ledger




I am a local resident, and prior to the lockdown, I regularly took my 2 year old son swimming, so I am very disappointed by the news that Ponds Forge will currently remain closed.


I learnt to swim from a young age; I competed in swimming and then trained as a lifeguard when I was a teenager. It is really important to me that my child has the opportunity to learn how to swim, and have regular access to swimming facilities to continually build his confidence and skills in the water.


When I moved to Sheffield, one of the main things that attracted me to this city was the sports facilities, especially venues such as Ponds Forge. Now, over a decade later, I have a child and I want him to have the opportunities that I moved to this city for. 


I had been taking my son to the Baby Splash sessions at Ponds Forge every week (I would have loved to have gone more frequently if these sessions had been offered more than just once a week). I often took my son to the weekend and school holiday leisure swim sessions at Ponds Forge. I had also just started bringing him to some of the other term time sessions in the leisure pool such as the Shallow Water/Ladies Only sessions (when the toddler pool is closed off), because he was becoming more confident in the water and we didn’t mind spending longer in the main part of the leisure pool. I had been teaching him to kick his legs, swim across the leisure pool with arm bands, and with a pool noodle instead of arm bands. Then the lockdown began!


It was an activity that we could do together, not only was it helping him to become more confident in the water, but it was also helping me to lose some of the weight that I had gained after pregnancy (especially imperative when one of the biggest risk factors for Covid 19 is obesity), and it was also important for maintaining my mental health.


As a result of the lockdown, several local swimming facilities have not reopened. Not only can I no longer use Ponds Forge, but other local pools such as King Edwards Swimming Pool and Zest Centre also remain closed. The pools reopening are further away and seem to only be offering lane swimming, which is not suitable for us.


Sadly the facilities at Ponds Forge had become in need of some improvements. Some of the showers were in need of repair, lightbulbs needed replacing, the grouting had mould, and lockers were often broken. Equipment such as the floats in the toddler pool were not replaced, there was once lots of animal shaped floats for the kids to play with, but sadly very few remained at the beginning of this year. However despite the much needed improvements, I regularly went swimming there with my son, because I really like the place, and the staff are all very friendly. It is within walking distance from my home, which as a single parent is essential to me, because it keeps costs down as I don’t have to pay for travel to get there.


Therefore I would really like to know when I will be able to take my child swimming again at Ponds Forge.




Councillor Mary Lea stated that the Council and SCT were aiming for the facilities to re-open around the beginning of October 2020.  She stated that she would take on board the comments raised with regard to the necessary repairs and maintenance of the facilities.  Lisa Firth (Director of Environment and Culture) added that there had been plans to re-open the swimming pools at King Edwards and the Zest Centre but, due to Covid-19, this had not been possible at this time, and the Council had been forced to take a phased approach in terms of re-opening such facilities, whilst adopting Covid-secure measures.




GMB (Not Present at the Meeting – Read Out by Deborah Glen, Policy and Improvement Officer)




The GMB Union wishes to raise concerns regarding even further subsidies being paid to Sheffield City Trust.


Paragraph 3 of the report of the Head of Strategic Finance notes that there has been slippage in the budget which is partly as a result of further millions being handed over to Sheffield City Trust on top of substantial subsidies being paid out in consecutive, previous years.


(1)      Does this Committee feel the most recent handing over of public money in the sum of £15m to Sheffield City Trust, who are now in the process of cutting hundreds of low paid jobs as well as keeping venues such as Ponds Forge closed, with no date for reopening, is fair when the SCT Senior Management team suffer no detriment even when the organisations business model has clearly failed?


(2)      Does this Committee believe the time has now come to bring the sport, leisure and cultural services Sheffield City Trust is responsible for back in-house?


(3)      Will this Committee recommend to the Leader and relevant Cabinet Member/s the urgent need to consider bringing these services in-house to ensure the security of hundreds of jobs and the long term stability of these services that mean so much to the people of Sheffield?


(4)      Would the Council be eligible to secure a grant from the Government's £1.5B rescue package for arts and leisure services if the facilities currently outsourced to Sheffield City Trust were to be brought back in-house?




With regard to Question 1, Councillor Terry Fox (Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance) reported that the Council was not happy in having to hand over the £15 million to the SCT, but the facilities were valued, both locally and nationally, and represented a vital resource for the City.  It was accepted that it was not the best deal for the Council, and that more had been expected of the SCT.  The Council was very concerned with regard to the redundancies across all the leisure facilities in the City, and Councillor Fox expressed his sorrow, on behalf of the Council, for all those members

of staff who had lost their jobs.  Councillor Mary Lea added that although the Government had provided numerous grants to organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no such grants that the Council could apply for, on behalf of SCT, in connection with the current model for the operation of the leisure facilities.  She stated that many other cities were in a similar position, and encouraged such authorities to lobby the Government on this issue.  With regard to Question 2, Councillor Terry Fox stated that the Council would be giving consideration to its Leisure Strategy going forward, and would be making an announcement on the Strategy at the appropriate time.  With regard to Question 3, Councillor Mary Lea re-iterated Councillor Fox’s comments as regards question 2, indicating that the Council was reviewing its Leisure Strategy at the moment. With regard to Question 4, it was reported that the Government had announced £1.5B of support for arts and culture. Local authorities were able to apply for this funding, as can Sheffield Theatres Trust and Leisure Trusts, such as SCT, so long as they provide services that fall within the terms of the funding.