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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions and Other Communications

(a)      To receive any questions or petitions from the public, or communications submitted by the Lord Mayor or the Chief Executive and to pass such resolutions thereon as the Council Procedure Rules permit and as may be deemed expedient.



(NOTE: There is a time limit of one hour for the above item of business.  In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website in relation to meetings of the Council held whilst social distancing and other public health safety measures still apply, questions/petitions are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on Monday 4th October.)



(b)      Petition Requiring Debate


The Council’s Petitions Scheme requires that a petition containing over 5,000 signatures from individuals who live, work or study in Sheffield, be the subject of debate at the Council meeting.  A qualifying petition has been received as follows:-




To debate an electronic petition containing over 40,000 signatures asking to let comedian, Roy Chubby Brown, perform at the Sheffield City Hall.  The online petition - Petition · Let Comedian Roy Chubby Brown perform at The Sheffield City Hall · includes further information.





The Lord Mayor (Councillor Gail Smith) reported that three petitions and questions from one member of the public had been received prior to the published deadline for submission of petitions and questions for this meeting.  A fourth petition had been received shortly after the deadline, which related to the subject matter of one of the Notices of Motion on the agenda for this meeting and accordingly, as chair of the meeting, the Lord Mayor had used her discretion and would permit the petition to be presented.  Prior to the meeting, one of the petitioners had withdrawn their petition and would re-present it at the next meeting of the Council.  This left three petitions, on which representations were to be made on behalf of the petitioners.  One further petition was to be debated at the end of the item, and this was referred to at item 4(b) on the agenda for the meeting.












Petition Requesting a Pedestrian Crossing on Psalter Lane, Near Osborne Road and Brincliffe Gardens






The Council received a joint electronic and paper petition containing 448 signatures requesting a pedestrian crossing on Psalter Lane near Osborne Road and Brincliffe Gardens.






Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Helen Brown. Dr Brown stated that she and several parents who had children who attended the Hunters Bar School had put forward this petition following an accident involving a child earlier in 2021. She stated that although the accident was not serious, she and her fellow petitioners felt it was only a matter of time before a serious accident would take place. She said many people she had spoken with had reported ‘near misses’ on this road, and she said she felt without action these incidents would become dangerous accidents. Dr Brown said the road was increasingly busy and asked that local active travel journeys be prioritised over those taken by people who she said were predominantly out of neighbourhood motorists. She stated that both Abbeydale Road and Ecclesall Road had multiple crossing points, but that Psalter Lane had only one which was often overwhelmed. 






Dr Brown said that pedestrians were forced to travel in a polluted area, passing waiting traffic, and stated that another crossing would allow for a more pleasant walking experience for pedestrians. Dr Brown said aside from the 3 schools in the area, there were several nurseries, a dance school, a pottery school and two new housing developments. She stated that a new crossing would benefit those who travel to and from these locations. She added that the diversions on the road to the existing crossing were a significant obstacle to pedestrians, particularly those with mobility issues or prams. Dr Brown added that cars parked on both sides of the road made crossing the road more challenging and she said that some parents drove their children less than 1.5 miles to school as they felt travelling on foot to be too dangerous. She referenced the Director of Public Health, Greg Fell’s, recent WordPress article, which she said encouraged a culture of walking and cycling in Sheffield. Dr Brown said she believed in order to reduce carbon emissions and the number of vehicles on the road, travelling on foot must be made safer.






The Council referred the petition to Councillor Douglas Johnson (Executive Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport). Councillor Johnson thanked Dr Brown for her petition. He agreed that there was a need for a crossing there; however, he stated that the Council was not currently able to implement one due to budget constraints. He stated that there were other roads in Sheffield which required work more urgently. Councillor Johnson referred to the ‘near misses’ mentioned by Dr Brown and asked that all citizens report these incidents whenever they occurred in order to ensure the Council had all relevant data when deciding where to make road safety changes. He added that without this data, it was less likely that road safety changes would be made. Councillor Johnson mentioned a recent tragedy which occurred in Darnall, an area which he stated more urgently required road safety changes.






Petition Requesting Road Safety Measures at the Junction of Knowle Lane, Hoober Avenue and Haugh Lane






The Council received an electronic petition containing 98 signatures requesting that the Council improve road safety at the junction between Knowle Lane, Hoober Avenue and Haugh Lane.






Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Ann Rowan. Ms Rowan stated that she lived on Knowle Lane and said there had been an accident at this junction recently. She said that this junction was on the route of a number of schools and nurseries and added that many ‘near misses’ had taken place. She said that South Yorkshire Police had done a speed survey on this junction in recent months and had found a mean speed of 29 miles per hour on a 30 mile per hour road. Ms Rowan stated that petitioners felt that speed was not the issue here, but rather the geometry of the junction which she said was particularly steep and led to drivers over-shooting the junction bringing them into contact with oncoming traffic. She stated that petitioners were requesting that the Council bring in measures to reduce the number of cars in the area through double yellow lines and a pedestrian barrier around the corner of the junction where the accident occurred.






The Council referred the petition to Councillor Douglas Johnson (Executive Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport). Councillor Johnson stated that the roads in the area mentioned were particularly wide, in contrast to other roads within Sheffield which might more urgently require improved road safety measures. He stated that given the reference to geometry, he would ask officers to look at any low-cost measures which might be available to improve road safety within the parameters of the existing road safety budget. Councillor Johnson thanked Ms Rowan for presenting the petition and encouraged Ms Rowan and her fellow petitioners to report any road safety incidents when they occurred.






Petition Requesting the Council to Support the Electricity Bill






The Council received an electronic petition containing 139 signatures requesting that the Council support the Electricity Bill.






Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Matt Killeya. Mr Killeya asked that the Council declare support for the parliamentary Electricity Bill which aimed to restructure the energy market through making it possible for local areas to create and sell renewable energy. Mr Killeya referred to the cuts to Universal Credit, the end of the Furlough Scheme and the energy crisis. He stated that many vulnerable people were being impacted by these changes. He said that he believed jobs needed to be created and the Climate Crisis needed to be addressed. Mr Killeya stated that the parliamentary Energy Bill would establish a right to supply and would allow energy companies to adjust their costs based on their size. He said that the Bill would prevent the market working only for the largest suppliers and would enable a stronger local economy. Mr Killeya stated that 96 Local Authorities and County Councils and 262 MPs had declared their support for the Electricity Bill, and he urged Sheffield City Council to declare their support also.






The Council referred the petition to Councillor Paul Turpin (Executive Member for Inclusive Economy, Jobs and Skills). Councillor Turpin stated that he would contact the relevant people to declare Sheffield City Council’s support of the Electricity Bill.






Public Questions Regarding the Possible Closure of Pinstone Street to Traffic






Elaine Bird asked the following questions of the Council:


‘With reference to the possible closure of Pinstone Street, we would like to know what and who the Council thinks the city centre is for.


How do they expect Sheffielders to access local businesses and services and were Raddison Blue given any assurances that buses/traffic would be removed or limited before they agreed to come to Sheffield?


If the city centre is for everyone in Sheffield, not just the fit and able, then everyone needs good and easy access, preferably not by expensive taxis. Council representatives repeatedly tell us that retail is not the future for the city centre as retail is moving online, but Leeds, Manchester and even Nottingham seem to think differently. We have few local banks now, so people need to access the centre for banking too. We have the Millennium Gallery and Library plus lots of other services. How does the Council expect Sheffielders to access these services? Established local businesses are suffering the loss of trade and are being told on a daily basis that regular customers won't be coming again as it is too difficult for them to reach us.


Cycling to work may be possible for council employees who will no doubt be provided with secure storage for their bikes. This is not an option for many, if not most, of the employers in the city centre. Can you please comment on the recent report that the Council also provides over 300 parking spaces for their employees?


Could the Council outline their plans for bringing trade back to the city centre in the short term. Many small traders will not survive waiting until the city centre developments are completed. It took years for us to recover, if we ever did, after the tram works decimated our businesses. That was a prime example of what happens when access to the city centre is restricted. Please don't repeat that experience again.


We realise that the Council wishes to promote active travel, but surely that does not mean only active travel. At the moment, all buses have an element of active travel that people perhaps do not want. People with mobility issues and other disabilities, it does not just impact the elderly, but often those with children using prams. We are not asking that all transport return to the city centre, but just buses. Taylor’s Barbers has been in the same position for over a hundred years. Their business is down 40% and shows no signs of recovering. Surrey Street parking is almost always full. Are Councillors aware that if you have the money, you can park there all day. Will you please think about reducing this facility?






In response, Councillor Douglas Johnson (Executive Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport) thanked Ms Bird for her question. He stated that he had recently had discussions with Ms Bird and the staff at Taylor’s Barbers and said that he was working to balance the needs of different citizens within Sheffield. Councillor Johnson said that things had changed a good deal in 100 years, and that Sheffield’s centre was more of a residential area than it had previously been, with 20,000 people living in this area. He said that this change necessarily changed the way in which the city centre worked. Councillor Johnson stated there was still a focus on attracting visitors from other places to Sheffield. He added that the tram network was important when bringing people into the city. He said that there was also a focus on increasing space in the city centre for people with mobility issues. Councillor Johnson stated that decreasing traffic in the city centre allowed buses to move more quickly through the area. He said that the benefits of this might be more visible outside of the city centre.


Councillor Johnson responded to the question regarding parking for Council staff and stated that the Council should lead the way in encouraging staff to come to work by means other than private cars but recognised that some of the Council’s employees required cars for their role. That did not necessarily mean providing parking for private cars and could instead be provided by ultra low-emission pool cars. He added that recent budget amendments by the Green Group had proposed that Councillors’ parking should not be reimbursed unless they had a Blue Badge.






Petition Requiring Debate: Petition Asking Sheffield City Trust To Let Comedian, Roy Chubby Brown, Perform at the Sheffield City Hall






The Council received a joint electronic and paper petition containing over 30,000 signatures, of which 7067 signatures were from individuals who live, work or study in Sheffield, requesting Sheffield City Trust to allow Roy Chubby Brown to perform at the City Hall.






The Council's Petitions Scheme required any petition containing over 5000 signatures to be the subject of debate at the Council meeting.  The wording of the qualifying petition was as follows:-

“Requesting Sheffield City Trust to allow Roy Chubby Brown to perform at the City Hall”






Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Haley Madden, who stated that fans of Chubby Brown should be able to attend his shows if they chose to do so as they were taxpayers who fund the running of the City Hall. She acknowledged the fact that not everyone had the same taste in comedy, as with music and other types of entertainment. Ms Madden stated that it was not only fans of Chubby Brown who had signed the petition, but also people who believed that they should have the choice to attend this, and any future shows of his at the City Hall. She made reference to the statement he had made with regard to the recent protest in Whitby, suggesting that Members of the Council should read this. She stressed that Chubby Brown's shows were just an act, which took place behind closed doors, and the people who attended his shows were aware of his material, therefore wouldn’t be offended. She did not believe that his material was as offensive as some people thought, and she was aware of people of various nationalities, creeds and sexual preference who had attended his shows, and continued to do so. Ms Madden made reference to the fact that Chubby Brown employed two homosexual men, one of whom had worked for him for 30 years, together with three women, and also had a good friend, of Jamaican origin. She stated that if he was homophobic, misogynistic and racist that a minority of people claimed he was, why would he employ such people and have such people continue working for him.






She stated that councillors had been elected to listen to the views of residents of the city, not to dictate and promote their own personal views if they did not agree with something. She believed it was a comedy show that could not possibly offend anyone, and those who chose to attend his shows know exactly what to expect. She concluded by stressing that people needed a laugh after such a terrible past few years due to the pandemic.






Councillor Julie Grocutt (Deputy Leader of the Council), in responding to the petition, commenced by stressing that the decision not to allow Chubby Brown to perform at the City Hall had been made by the Sheffield City Trust (SCT), a charitable trust, and independent of the Council, and not by the City Council. This also meant that the Council was not able to reverse the Trust’s decision. Councillor Grocutt stated that, in her personal opinion, she agreed with the decision made. She stated that no one was suggesting that Chubby Brown could not appear to perform his act in Sheffield, but just could not perform at the City Hall and indicated that there were plenty of private venues in the city where he could perform.






Councillor Martin Smith (Shadow Executive Member for City Futures: Development, Culture and Regeneration) stated that, in his personal opinion, he would not attend one of Chubby Brown’s performances. However, he believed that SCT’s actions in terms of originally agreeing to the show, then rescinding its decision, had caused a considerable level of upset. Councillor Smith referred to other operational issues linked to SCT, and questioned whether the present relationship between the Trust and the City Council was fit for purpose, and suggested that action was required in this regard.






Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed stated that he would also choose not to go to one of Chubby Brown's performances, but believed that people should be able to make their own decisions as to whether they go and see him or not. He pointed out that Chubby Brown had been performing at the City Hall for many years, and questioned why it had taken until now for this decision to be made. He also questioned whether similar decisions would be made regarding other comedians, such as Jimmy Carr and Jo Brand, as well as other artists.






Councillor Abtisam Mohammed stated that she was puzzled by some of the recent comments made with regard to this issue. She accepted that comedy was an acquired taste, but stated that Chubby Brown’s act included racist comments, referring specifically to derogative terms used as part of his act. She believed that a racist was a racist, whether they were comedians or not, and that the freedom of speech did not mean freedom from consequence. Councillor Mohamed believed that SCT had made the correct decision, particularly as it had recently given evidence to the Sheffield Race Equality Commission on how it proposed to promote equality in the city.






Councillor Mohammed Mahroof also questioned why it had taken until now to take action against Chubby Brown, particularly as he had been performing for around 50 years. He referred to the adverse effects of racism in all parts of society, and indicated that whilst he did not agree with the content of the act, or would never attend one of his performances, he defended his right to perform where he and his fans wanted him to. He believed that free speech should be supported, and that people should be able to go and see whoever they wanted.






Councillor Lewis Chinchen stated that the debate over whether Chubby Brown should be able to perform was not about whether you agreed with the content of his performances or not, or about whether you liked him as a person, but about whether you supported the fundamental principle of freedom of speech and respected the freedom of choice that people should have in deciding who they see and who they chose not to see. He believed that it shouldn't be SCT's decision to decide what people could or could not watch. Councillor Chinchen stated that we were meant to be living in a liberal society, where people could make their own decisions over who they wanted to see.






Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards stated that as part of her duty as a City Councillor, she had a legal duty to promote community cohesion, including the promotion of equality across the city. She believed that the city should not be welcoming someone who used derogative and racist terminology as part of his act, or giving him a public platform in any buildings owned or leased by the Council.






Councillor Penny Baker questioned whether the City Council or SCT had the powers of censorship, and highlighted the right to free speech. She believed that as long as the act was deemed legal, no-one should be able to tell Chubby Brown that he could not perform in this city.






Councillor Ben Curran stated that he welcomed free speech, and questioned some of the views expressed during this debate. He referred specifically to a previous discussion during a Council meeting where Members had unanimously agreed to take a stand against “cat-calling” and derogatory comments made towards women, but questioned why people thought it was alright for a comedian to make such comments. He also made reference to comments made at previous Council meetings with regard to taking firmer action against people subjecting members of the LGBTQ community to inappropriate comments.






Councillor Colin Ross believed that SCT had handled this situation very badly. He considered it to be a very difficult situation as it was a subjective issue, and expressed concerns at the possibility of the Council or SCT censoring acts by other comedians or other artists in the future. The Council needed to be very mindful of the consequences such censorship could bring.






Haley Madden, in her right of reply, stated that some of the proceeds from the sale of merchandise at Chubby Brown’s shows went to various charities, one being Zoe's Trust, a cancer charity for young children.






Councillor Julie Grocutt responded to issues raised during the debate and stated that, whilst there had been some compassionate views expressed as part of the debate, she still concurred with the decision taken by SCT. She expressed concern at comments raised by some Councillors with regard to them experiencing racism. She was also concerned about some people attending a Chubby Brown show, when not being familiar with his material, and being subject to inappropriate comments. She considered that the Council should support SCT in its decision in not allowing Chubby Brown to perform at the City Hall.






The outcome of the debate on the petition was as follows:-






Proposal 1






It was moved by Councillor Julie Grocutt and seconded by Councillor Douglas Johnson, that:-






The petition be noted and no action be taken.






Proposal 2






It was moved by Councillor Martin Smith and seconded by Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, that:-






The petition be noted and the matter be referred to the Co-operative Executive to review the performance of Sheffield City Trust and the governance arrangements between the Council and the Trust.






The two motions were then put to the vote.  Proposal 1 was carried and Proposal 2 was not carried.  Accordingly, the resolution passed by the Council was as follows:-






RESOLVED:  That this Council notes the petition and agrees to take no action.






NOTE: The votes on Proposal 2 were ordered to be recorded and were as follows:-






For Proposal 2 (27)


Councillors Richard Shaw, Sophie Thornton, Ann Woolhouse, Tim Huggan, Mohammed Mahroof, Joe Otten, Colin Ross, Martin Smith, Vic Bowden, Alan Woodcock, Roger Davison, Barbara Masters, Shaffaq Mohammed, Sue Alston, Andrew Sangar, Cliff Woodcraft, Ian Auckland, Sue Auckland, Steve Ayris, Kevin Oxley, Penny Baker, Vickie Priestley, Richard Williams, Lewis Chinchen, Alan Hooper, Mike Levery and Ann Whitaker.






Against Proposal 2 (42)


The Deputy Lord Mayor (Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards) and Councillors Chris Rosling-Josephs, Denise Fox, Bryan Lodge, Karen McGowan, Angela Argenzio, Brian Holmshaw, Kaltum Rivers, Talib Hussain, Mark Jones, Safiya Saeed, Douglas Johnson, Ruth Mersereau, Martin Phipps, Mary Lea, Zahira Naz, Fran Belbin, Abdul Khayum, Abtisam Mohamed, Alexi Dimond, Cate McDonald, Paul Turpin, George Lindars-Hammond, Josie Paszek, Peter Garbutt, Maroof Raouf, Alison Teal, Ben Miskell, Mike Drabble, Dianne Hurst, Dawn Dale, Garry Weatherall, Mike Chaplin, Jayne Dunn, Julie Grocutt, Francyne Johnson, Ben Curran, Neale Gibson, Bernard Little, Mick Rooney, Jackie Satur and Paul Wood.






Abstained from voting on Proposal 2 (1)


The Lord Mayor (Councillor Gail Smith).