Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



Nigel Slack was in attendance and asked the following questions:


‘Question One: ‘The briefing attached to this question outlines my comments and concerns about the recent Land and Property Plan passed by the Labour Party members at the last Co-operative Executive Committee Meeting on the 20th of October 2021, whilst the Green Party Members abstained. The questions below are also embedded in the comments document but are reiterated here for clarity.


1A Have Exec members had the chance to see and debate the final 'plan' and to approve the document signed off by the Co-operative Executive Member for Finance and Resources?


1B Who will be the Corporate Landlord in the executive model?


1C The plan suggests it is “Inspired by successes delivered through our previous plan “Assets for our Communities...”. What examples are there to illustrate this?


1D There is not a single mention of the City's history & heritage assets at all in this plan. A dangerous and damning omission that undervalues the visitor economy potential for the city in helping “improve lives and create a place which works for Sheffield’s people. “Will this be addressed in the sub-policies and in which policy area will it fall?


1E How will Property Services engage with City residents to make them part of the decision-making process?


1F In modernising the estate will repurposing and refurbishing be at the top of the priorities since, from an environmental point of view, these are generally better options than demolition and new build?


1G In modernising our city what evidence has been gathered that 'major developments' are still the right solution to the market for workspaces and retail?

1h In tackling the climate emergency to what outside organisations is Sheffield listening and from what outside sources might investment or other funding be available?


1I Will the city adopt a 'make the developer pay' approach?


1J In 'our framework' will council reflect the changing work profile, likely to remain even after the pandemic and reverse the damaging centralisation of services for a more 'neighbourhood' approach for service engagement for the public?


1K In unlocking money, what work has been done to identify and what are the surplus estate assets proposed for disposal in 2022/23 financial year?


1L In managing our estate Council commit to “Be transparent in the decisions we take – we recognise the importance of good standards of governance in public authorities and the need for robust processes to guide decision making we will be transparent in the decisions we take to ensure we can legitimately withstand challenge.” What will this look like?


1M In the clear approach to asset management, there are so many questions but to highlight just 3:


Gather, record and maintain information about the estate to provide sufficient information to make decisions “Is this really not available? How have decisions been made in the past without such information?


Only hold the minimum estate required for service delivery. Reducing inefficient, underutilised and unfit property through timely demolition (where appropriate) and disposal thereby avoiding ongoing associated costs “Businesses of all sizes have recognised the danger of being too lean, emergency impacts like the pandemic and the climate emergency need quick responses and that is not possible without a bit of fat in the system. Will Council ensure property decisions are made with this in mind?


Ensure any lettings for community use are based on sound business cases, meet needs of the community and city and are viable and sustainable “What support will be offered to community and social enterprises to ensure a level playing field against corporate interests?


1N In what success looks like, clarity is needed about the 'range of sources' Council will use to build the evidence base. Is there any clarity available?


1O “...we will develop measurable targets ...” How did Council measure success up to now? (Experience suggests that beyond monetary value they did not).


1P What is the timeline for these further policy documents?


Question Two: The vote on the Land & Property Plan was a not a unanimous vote but this is not reflected in the minutes. Why not?

Will Council undertake to ensure future votes are recorded votes and published transparently. The minutes as they stand do not reflect the actuality of the vote and could mislead the public.


Question Three: When will details of the “...significant engagement...” on the sub-policies be available and what form will this take?


Question Four: I was disquieted by the Executive Member for Finance & Resources comments at the last meeting which attempted to suggest that my words in the question that day were somehow intemperate or insulting. I spoke to my experience of Property Services processes and decision making over the last few years and the failings of that department (exemplified by the extraordinary failure to maintain vital Council assets to the tune of £200M+) and the extraordinary disarray around certain decisions on the disposal of heritage properties. I invite the member to apologise for the remarks.’


Councillor Cate McDonald responded to Mr Slack’s questions regarding the Corporate Asset Management Plan. Councillor McDonald noted that elements of Mr Slack’s questions had not been shared and said written responses would be provided for these at a later date.


Councillor McDonald stated that the Corporate Asset Management Plan provided a high-level overview of what the Council would use its estate for, and the principles for decision making. She said that the Plan would be owned and managed by the Council and would not be a plan for Property Services nor would it provide a detailed plan of the Council’s estate. Councillor McDonald stated that detailed information of the Council’s estate was held on Asset Management and GIS Systems and added that the corporate accounts set out the value of the Council’s assets. She said that the plan would be underpinned by a detailed suite of policies, and these procedures would set out how decisions would be made about the Council’s estate. She stated that these policies would be brought forward over the coming 12 months.


Councillor McDonald said that decisions were not made by officers within Property Services but were instead taken in line with the Council’s constitution and the Leader’s Scheme of Delegation. She stated that all decisions around disposals were undertaken through the Council’s disposal policy. Councillor McDonald stated that the Council was committed to inclusive decision making and would work with Local Area Committees to consider how to encourage local people to input into Council decisions.


Councillor McDonald stated that the Council recognised the importance of heritage assets in its care and the contribution these had to the city. She stated that it was not the focus of this plan to provide a detailed overview of the heritage assets owned by the Council, and she added that information on these assets was considered within the decision-making process.


Councillor Douglas Johnson responded to the Climate Change element of Mr Slack’s questions. He stated that the Council had been speaking with many different external organisations in order to draw ideas into the 10-Point Plan. He stated that Climate Change was not a department specific issue and added that he hoped each department within the Council would continue to increase their consideration of the Climate Change crisis in their day-to-day work. Regarding developers, Councillor Johnson stated that the role of developers would be addressed in the 10-Point Plan. Councillor Johnson stated he would provide further written responses following the meeting.



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