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Agenda item

Report of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman - Complaint about Removal of Street Trees and Streets Ahead Contract

Report of the Executive Director, Place

Decision:

7.1

The Executive Director, Place, submitted a report summarising the findings of a formal report by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (attached to the report as Appendix A) regarding a complaint made by Mr G about the removal of street trees from the road where he lived, as part of the Council’s ‘Streets Ahead’ programme of works delivered by its contractor, Amey Hallam Highways plc.

 

The report details the recommendations to the Council arising from the report and includes an outline of the steps already taken to improve transparency in relation to decision making. The report recommended that Cabinet recognise the failings

of the Council and provide a full apology. Cabinet approval is also sought for the

creation of a public archive of Sheffield City Council (SCC) street tree related material to be held within the City Archives in perpetuity.

 

 

7.2

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:-

 

 

(a) endorses the publication of a public unreserved apology accepting the findings of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman investigation;

 

(b) notes that the Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change has provided a private apology to the family of Mr G recognising the failings of the Council in its communications with him;

 

(c) notes that the Street Tree Partnership Working Strategy details the new, transparent decision process for tree removals, and the additional information requirements from the contractor in submitting the recommendation;

 

(d) notes that the Highways Maintenance (Streets Ahead client team) and contractor will receive additional training in the Council’s complaints procedure;

 

(e) notes the work that is being done to embed openness and transparency across all of the Council’s services; and

 

(f) approves the funding for Sheffield Archives Service to establish and manage the creation of a complete archive of SCC tree related material to be held within the City Archives in perpetuity.

 

 

7.3

Reasons for Decision

 

 

7.3.1

The recommendations to Cabinet reflect the work the Council has already commenced that contribute to realising the recommendations of the Ombudsman and our commitment to open and transparent decision making.

 

In addition, Cabinet is asked to approve the new archive project which will allow open access to our records and correspondence in relations to our past approach and decisions.

 

 

7.4

Alternatives Considered and Rejected

 

 

7.4.1

No alternative options have been considered, the Council accepts the findings of the report and is pleased to demonstrate our progress and commitments to realising the recommendations from the Ombudsman report.

 

 

7.5

Any Interest Declared or Dispensation Granted

 

 

 

None

 

 

7.6

Reason for Exemption if Public/Press Excluded During Consideration

 

 

 

None

 

 

7.7

Respective Director Responsible for Implementation

 

 

 

Laraine Manley, Executive Director, Place.

 

 

7.8

Relevant Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee If Decision Called In

 

 

 

Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee

 

 

Minutes:

7.1

The Executive Director, Place, submitted a report summarising the findings of a formal report by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (attached to the report as Appendix A) regarding a complaint made by Mr G about the removal of street trees from the road where he lived, as part of the Council’s ‘Streets Ahead’ programme of works delivered by its contractor, Amey Hallam Highways plc.

 

The report details the recommendations to the Council arising from the report and includes an outline of the steps already taken to improve transparency in relation to decision making. The report recommended that Cabinet recognise the failings of the Council and provide a full apology. Cabinet approval is also sought for the creation of a public archive of Sheffield City Council (SCC) street tree related material to be held within the City Archives in perpetuity.

 

The Leader of the Council made a statement on behalf of the Cabinet and the Council.  She confirmed that the Council accepts the findings of the report of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman into the Complaint about Removal of Street Trees and the Streets Ahead Contract, and provides an unreserved apology for the failings of the implementation of the street trees element of the Streets Ahead programme. She also acknowledged the controversy and concern that the issue has caused and that the dispute should not have got to the point that it did.  She accepted that the council's poor practise in managing the issue did contribute to the opposition to the programme, particularly with incidents such as Rustlings Road.  She stated that it should not have been handled in the way that it was and there are other examples of this also in the report. 

 

She stated that it is also clear that the approach we have now got, to which the vast majority of people are supportive of, is the right way forward.  She reiterated that over the past two and a half years the Council has, at different stages, apologised and recognised that we got some things wrong with the way the issue was handled. With regards specifically to the Rustlings Road incident the Council did give a full apology for those events at that time, which is referenced in the report.  She stated that the Council wrote to the residents of Rustlings Road a week after that incident took place and she reiterated again that apology today.

 

Finally, on a more positive note it is important to say that, the fact that we are now working towards a street tree strategy that is being co-produced with the groups who were previously at the centre of the dispute, is a demonstration of how far we have come together. She thanked all those involved and as recognised in the report, noted that we are in a very different position today.

 

 

7.2

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:-

 

 

(a) endorses the publication of a public unreserved apology accepting the findings of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman investigation;

 

(b) notes that the Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change has provided a private apology to the family of Mr G recognising the failings of the Council in its communications with him;

 

(c) notes that the Street Tree Partnership Working Strategy details the new, transparent decision process for tree removals, and the additional information requirements from the contractor in submitting the recommendation;

 

(d) notes that the Highways Maintenance (Streets Ahead client team) and contractor will receive additional training in the Council’s complaints procedure;

 

(e) notes the work that is being done to embed openness and transparency across all of the Council’s services; and

 

(f) approves the funding for Sheffield Archives Service to establish and manage the creation of a complete archive of SCC tree related material to be held within the City Archives in perpetuity.

 

 

7.3

Reasons for Decision

 

 

7.3.1

The recommendations to Cabinet reflect the work the Council has already commenced that contribute to realising the recommendations of the Ombudsman and our commitment to open and transparent decision making.

 

In addition, Cabinet is asked to approve the new archive project which will allow open access to our records and correspondence in relations to our past approach and decisions.

 

 

7.4

Alternatives Considered and Rejected

 

 

7.4.1

No alternative options have been considered, the Council accepts the findings of the report and is pleased to demonstrate our progress and commitments to realising the recommendations from the Ombudsman report.

 

 

7.5

Any Interest Declared or Dispensation Granted

 

 

 

None

 

 

7.6

Reason for Exemption if Public/Press Excluded During Consideration

 

 

 

None

 

 

7.7

Respective Director Responsible for Implementation

 

 

 

Laraine Manley, Executive Director, Place.

 

 

7.8

Relevant Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee If Decision Called In

 

 

 

Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee

 

 

 

Supporting documents: