Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions and Other Communications

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.



(NOTES: 1. 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 28th February.


2. There is a time limit of one hour for the above item of business. For this particular meeting, it is expected that the time limit will be strictly adhered to, in accordance with the Council Procedure Rules.  Priority will be given to petitions and to questions relating to budget proposals, and any questions which are unable to be asked within the one-hour allocation will be answered in writing after the meeting.  The Lord Mayor (as Chair of the meeting) has discretion as to how questions and petitions are presented at the meeting and as to whether questioners/petitioners are invited to ask their question or present their petition at the meeting, or they are read out at the meeting.)





The Lord Mayor (Councillor Gail Smith) reported that three petitions and questions from eleven members of the public had been received prior to the published deadline for submission of petitions and questions for this meeting.  On all three of the petitions, representations were to be made on behalf of the petitioners.  Prior to the start of the meeting, one of the questioners had withdrawn her questions after receiving a written answer from the relevant Executive Member.








Petition Requesting an E-Scooter Riding Academy and Safe Space for Children




The Council received an electronic petition containing 20 signatures, requesting an e-scooter riding academy and safe space for children.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Gordon Riley. Mr Riley stated that one of his businesses comprised an e-scooter and e-bike shop and repair centre, and he had noticed a sharp increase in the number of e-scooters being bought for use by children. He was aware of, and concerned about, the potential dangers this presented in terms of children riding the scooters on pavements or roads, which was still illegal. Mr Riley was therefore asking for help from the Council in terms of identifying a suitable safe space and an academy to allow for children to be educated on how to ride them safely and how to maintain them. He would also like to see the establishment of after-school clubs at which children could be shown how to ride safely and maintain their scooters. 




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Alison Teal (Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Wellbeing, Parks and Leisure). Councillor Teal thanked Mr Riley for bringing the petition, and acknowledged the requirement on the Council to support all forms of low carbon transport. She indicated however, that current legislation did not allow for the riding of e-scooters on roads, and also referred to the trial currently being undertaken by the Department for Transport, in various areas of the country, on the use of e-scooters. On the basis that it was still illegal to ride e-scooters on pavements and roads in Sheffield, Councillor Teal stated that setting up an academy and safe space for children at this time could potentially cause confusion in terms of people thinking it was legal for them to ride them. She stated that following the outcome of the trials, and any subsequent change in legislation, the Council could work with Mr Riley to look at future possibilities. 




Petition Requesting the Council to Improve Access for Elderly People, Young Women and Children to Mount Pleasant Park




The Council received a petition containing 160 signatures, requesting the Council to improve access for elderly people, young women and children to Mount Pleasant Park.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Nighat Basharat. Ms Basharat stated that she lived in the Sharrow area, and that the petition had been signed by residents in the Nether Edge and Sharrow area. The petitioners had raised concerns specifically about one area of the Park, which was being used as a dumping site, and which had attracted drug users, which had created fear for residents wanting to use the Park. Needles were regularly found in this area, which caused safety concerns for children. The petitioners were requesting lighting at the entrance to the Park, to provide clear visibility during the evening/night time, as well as a sense of security for users and residents living in the immediate vicinity. The petitioners were also requesting the provision of seating/benches, up to date facilities, such as exercise machines, the planting of flowers and plants and more regular clean ups. Ms Nighat also referred to the fact that if such improvements were made, it would encourage more people to use the Park, thereby improving their health and wellbeing.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Alison Teal (Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Wellbeing, Parks and Leisure). Councillor Teal thanked Ms Basharat for bringing the petition, and suggested that she, and other local Ward Councillors, should meet her and visit the Park to discuss the petitioners’ concerns. She stated that consideration could be given to improved lighting in the Park, and assured Ms Basharat that officers regularly visited the Park to clear up any needles found there. Councillor Teal stated that a number of benches and bushes had recently been removed from the Park for the purpose of deterring people from gathering there and causing anti-social behaviour.




Petition Requesting Action Regarding Odour and Noise Problems at Abbey Glen, Westfield




The Council received a petition containing 123 signatures, requesting action regarding odour and noise problems at Abbey Glen, Westfield.




At the request of the Lord Mayor (Councillor Gail Smith), Sean Corey made representations on behalf of the petitioners and asked the questions he had submitted along with the petition.  Delphine Himsworth and Dawn Godson were also invited to ask the questions that they had submitted on this matter.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Sean Corey. Mr Corey stated that Abbey Glen was situated on Carley Drive, Westfield, on an industrial site, bordered by residential properties on three sides. There had been no issues with the previous owners of the site, but problems started when Abbey Glen acquired the site in June 2020. Residents experienced noise nuisance for seven days a week, in October 2020, when installation and refurbishment works commenced, with representations being made to the Council’s Environmental Protection Service (EPS). The problems got worse when the business became fully operational in October 2020, with residents suffering noise nuisance 18 hours a day, five days a week, with particular problems during the summer months when people had their windows open. The EPS were again involved, taking various noise surveys.




Mr Corey also raised the following questions:-




1.       What is Amenity in a planning sense and what, therefore, is loss of Amenity?

2.       How is it possible that a noisy, smelly factory like Abbey Glen can operate on a B1 site in a highly populated area, operate for 18 hours per day and furthermore, escape prosecution for planning breaches?

3.       Do you think it’s acceptable that the file relating to the original Planning Application has gone missing and will you immediately launch an investigation to find it, or do I have to go down the route of Freedom of Information?




Delphine Himsworth raised the following questions:-




1.        About sleeping, having to sleep with windows closed in hot weather because of the noise and smell.


2.       How it is affecting peoples mental health.


3.       Fire hazard because bedding is still being left outside and so many trees between them and the houses.




Dawn Godson raised the following questions:-




1. Why are the Council allowing Abbey Glen to blatantly breach planning rules by having more and more trollies stored outside, which make noise when moved about?

2. Why has the Council allowed a B2 business to move onto a B1 industrial estate, Abbey Glen are affecting people's mental and physical health and wellbeing with the working hours, smell and noise?

3. Abbey Glen are ruining our lives, we have not been able to relax in our own gardens, due to smell and noise, can't go to bed when we want due to noise and not having a safe haven. What is the Council now going to do about this?




The Council referred the petition and the questions to Councillor Mazher Iqbal (Executive Member for City Futures, Development, Culture and Regeneration). Councillor Iqbal thanked Mr Corey for bringing the petition, and Ms Himsworth and Ms Godson for raising the questions. Councillor Iqbal expressed his sympathy for what the residents were having to put up with, and apologised for the loss of the file containing the planning application, which he believes was lost when the Planning Service moved from a paper to an electronic filing system. He suggested that the best way forward would be to arrange a meeting between local residents, local Ward Councillors, officers from the Environmental Protection and Planning Services and Clive Betts, MP, to discuss the residents’ concerns in detail.




Public Questions




Public Questions Regarding Birley Spa




Fiona Milne raised the following questions:-




Even though




·        Birley Spa is a unique Grade 2 Listed Building. The site is actually signposted by brown traffic signs. Brown traffic signs which indicate nearby recreational and cultural interest sites.


·        Birley Spa has been a community building since the 1960s.


·        The legacy of Alan Bailey MBE for our community IS Birley Spa.


·        The Council’s failure to maintain the building following the restoration has allowed it to deteriorate to the state it is now.


·        The sale of building was halted due to public outcry.


·        Birley Spa was made an Asset of Community Value in November 2019.


·        The Friends Group wanted the building to become, with the help of the Council, a Green Community Hub for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Education and Nature.


·        SCC declared a Climate Emergency 2019 - mentioning amongst other things, that a fairer, greener city is better for all of us.


·        The results of the IWUN Project, Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature, a 3-year project were taken into account by the Council when shaping their Green and Open Space Strategy and the Sheffield Strategy for Mental Health and Wellbeing. The IWUN Project validated our proposals for the Spa.


·        The Covid pandemic, proved the value of the Spa for Mental Health and Wellbeing beyond any doubt.


·        Health professionals contacted us about Green Social Prescribing at Birley Spa in the wake of the developing mental health crisis, but are unable to use the site due to lack of facilities because the building is in disrepair.


·        Public Health Funding can be used for capital projects.


·        The National Lottery Heritage Fund have said that they would consider an application in relation to Birley Spa again.


·        The Council cite a duty of care to the building and yet left said building knowingly insecure for almost two years, rather than replace the front door, which allowed massive water ingress into the upper floor.


Despite all of the above, the Council chose not to support the Friends of Birley Spa.


Our first question is simply, why?


The Council said that we needed, and they would pay for, a professional business plan in March 2020. They then reneged on that six months later, saying it was too expensive, suggesting instead that we get a cheaper quote, or even get students to do it. We were unable to do this as, in September 2020, the Council wanted to explore the possibility of finding funding to make the upper floor residential, as such we did not know how much of the building would be covered by any plan. Plus, we were told that the Council was also going to undertake a feasibility study regarding having a listed residential council property within parkland. In October 2021 we were told that the cost for residential conversion would be £1.7 to £2million. We can only assume that the Council would not be able to pursue that option. We have not seen any feasibility study. We have now been told to find £400k to cover the cost of repairs and provide a business plan. We have no means to apply for funding for the building without tenure or partnership, as the Council are very well aware. We have no reason to trust that the Council’s stance would alter even with a cast iron business plan.


Our question is, the Council have stated that they do not want to set us up to fail. If so, then what would you call this?




In response, Councillor Cate McDonald (Executive Member for Finance and Resources) stated that the Council was committed to working with the Friends of Birley Spa to secure the future of the building. However, the building was in a very poor condition, and the costs of bringing it back into use were considerable. Given the significant financial pressures facing the Council at the present time, the Council does not have the resources to repair and redevelop the building, therefore a different solution was required. Councillor McDonald referred to the meeting between Council Members and officers and the Friends Group on 28th January, 2022 to discuss a possible way forward. Considerable work had been undertaken in terms of looking at how the building could be brought back into use, including the Council commissioning a number of technical reports to establish the required costs. The repair of the building was only the first stage, as funding would also be required to convert, run and maintain the building. She stated that a sound business plan was required to ensure that if the Friends Group was to take on the running of the building, they would have the necessary resources to do so. There were, however, doubts as to whether they would be able to do this. The Council was very supportive of the Friends Group’s plan to apply for funding, and would be happy to provide a letter of support to any funder. Councillor McDonald stressed the importance of making a decision on the future of the building as soon as possible in the light of its condition.




Public Questions Regarding the Council’s Banking Services Contract




Richard Teasdale raised the following question:-




I am a resident of Sheffield and a Local Group Co-ordinator for Sheffield Greenpeace. I am, quite frankly, terrified about the climate and ecological crises that are unfolding before our eyes. Back in 2019, Sheffield City Council declared a Climate Emergency, and then in 2021 a Nature Emergency.  I was therefore shocked to discover recently, that the Council’s current banking services contract is with Barclays. Barclays invests more in fossil fuels than any other European Bank. Over $100 Billion since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.  Simply put - Barclays is fuelling the climate crisis.




The Council’s current banking services contract with Barclays is due to expire on 30th September 2022 with an intention of concluding procurement no later than the end of March 2022.  In the Report of the Executive Director it states ‘There expectation that Bidders will abide with the principles of the Council’s Ethical Procurement Policy and Ethical Code of Conduct for Suppliers.’




If the Council is serious about the Climate and Nature Emergencies and their Ethical Policies and Codes of Conduct, then surely they cannot consider engaging with any Bank that knowingly invests billions in climate destroying fossil fuels.




My question therefore is: how will Sheffield City Council ensure that the bank selected in the procurement process is a truly ethical and sustainable bank, that puts planet before profit?




In response, Councillor Cate McDonald (Executive Member for Finance and Resources) stated that the procurement would be ran as an open tender, in line with the Public Contract Regulations 2015 to ensure that a fair and inclusive process was undertaken. The tender documentation advised bidders that the Council would be encouraging environmental considerations and carbon reduction within all future contracts. In addition to price and quality criteria, bidders would also be evaluated on their social value commitments, including fighting climate change, reducing waste, economic and employment related values, such as the living wage, and equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. There was also an expectation that the bidders would abide with the principles of the Council’s ethical procurement policy and ethical code of conduct for suppliers. The Council had had an ethical procurement policy for some years now, and it was in the process of strengthening the policy in relation to environmental considerations.




Korine Nohr raised the following question:-




Why does SCC bank at Barclays Bank?




In response, Councillor Cate McDonald (Executive Member for Finance and Resources) stated that Barclays had provided banking services for the Council since 2014, with such contract award being the subject of a procurement process at that time, and which complied with all required legislation. The banking services were now to be reprocured under an open competition.




Marieanne Elliott raised the following question:-




The Council uses Barclays bank, which is known to finance energy companies to expand oil and gas production. Barclays are chasing short-term profits at the expense of future generations. Will the Council commit to divesting from the fossil fuel industry rather than inflating it with further finance?




In response, Councillor Cate McDonald (Executive Member for Finance and Resources) stated that the Council would be undertaking an open and transparent procurement process for the contract for its banking services. Potential bidders would be advised of the Council's decision to declare a climate emergency, and setting a target for the city to be net zero carbon by 2030. The Council would be encouraging environmental considerations and carbon reduction in all future banking contracts.




Public Questions Regarding Community Gardens




Question asked by Marieanne Elliott




What is the Council’s approach when residents in a community want to tidy up unused open space, to start up a community garden? Some areas in Sheffield now have a number of community gardens, these projects have benefits in terms of community cohesion, mental health and wellbeing, as well as physical health benefits and in some gardens, food growing and improved biodiversity. Many areas in the city don't have any yet. Is the Council supportive of communities who wish to start up community gardens in areas which currently don't have any?




In response, Councillor Alison Teal (Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Wellbeing, Parks and Leisure) stated that she would encourage anyone interested in community gardening to approach the Council. Whilst there was currently no agreed process at the present time, any requests would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Councillor Teal encouraged anyone interested to contact their local Councillors or herself, and also for people to speak to members of those groups already established on the basis that they would be more than happy to share their knowledge.




Public Questions Regarding Tackling Poverty




Question asked by Carrie Hedderwick




Given the shocking and criminal cutbacks by this and past Governments to the funding allocated to local authorities, and given that we are, at this moment, in a massive cost of living crisis because of rampant free market forces, we need to be fighting back against Government policies which are putting the burden of the cost of the crisis on ordinary working people. 


Can the Council please inform us which Councillor is now the lead member for the Tackling Poverty Strategy; who is the lead officer on the Tackling Poverty Strategy,  and what immediate action is the Council going to take in the face of these assaults on people's living standards?




In response, Councillor Julie Grocutt (Executive Member for Community Engagement and Governance) stated that it was back in March 2020 when the Cabinet approved the Tackling Poverty Framework for 2020-2030, restating its commitment to tackling poverty and agreeing to develop an action plan.  Immediately following this, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Council worked with partners to deliver a Pandemic Poverty Response which covered the following areas.  Provision of food boxes for urgent support and worked closely with citizens advice to refer those in need to food banks; helped food banks access supplies; administered the Covid-19 Emergency Hardship Grants and Self-Isolation payments; provided public health grants for voluntary, community and faith sector organisations to support immediate extra costs; the Council Tax liability was reduced by £150; supporting vulnerable people group established with partners to support a citywide response, including provision of information and support for people facing redundancy and provision of free school meal vouchers during school holidays.




As the Council had moved forward from the initial emergency response, it has continued to focus on practical responses while reinforcing its strategic commitment by identifying the following clear priority in the one-year plan - to support our diverse communities to recover from the impact of Covid by taking visible action to fight poverty and inequality.  This work now sits with the Council Leader (Councillor Terry Fox) and with Eugene Walker identified as lead officer.  The Council has been working internally with partners on the following responses - continuing to facilitate the supporting vulnerable people group and responding to issues identified; working with partners to convene a citywide response to the financial cliff edge that many people were now facing as a result of the Government policy and cost of living crisis, including looking to make the most of the resources within the city, providing support and information on welfare benefits, and looking at other specific issues around addressing the housing drivers of poverty.




The Financial Cliff Edge Group sits under the Sheffield City Partnership which, last October, hosted an Anti-Poverty Summit and brought together a diverse range of people to focus on identifying actions.  Speakers at that summit included Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Greg Fell (Director of Public Health), representatives of the Manor and Castle Development Trust, the Firvale Community Hub and Shelter and also Councillor Terry Fox.  Using the outcomes from the summit, the Financial Cliff Edge Group is preparing a Poverty action plan.  Front-line officers are holding discussions with residents on financial inclusion, targeting those in greatest need.  Through the People Keeping Well project, early years’ services, social workers, housing staff and housing associations, information is being communicated to citizens on the resources and support that is available to them.  The Council’s Communications service has also been issuing similar information citywide.  The voluntary, community and faith sector is also being supported via the VCF Recovery Fund.




Councillor Grocutt stated that the Council would continue to offer emergency hardship support, including the household support fund, and would be reviewing its Hardship Support Fund.  Private sector tenants were being supported through the wider housing top-up scheme and the Council would continue to support residents via its Council Tax Hardship Scheme, school holiday support and food vouchers.  She added that the budget proposal was to include £200,000 to increase the Council Tax Hardship Support Scheme to a total of £2m. An analysis of the awards made under this scheme showed that over 90% of those accessing the scheme were working age taxpayers.




Public Questions Regarding the Condition of the Road Surface at Mortomley Close, High Green




Question asked by Matt Wilson




It has come to my attention that residents on Mortomley Close, in High Green were informed during the development of the Thorncliffe Leisure facility that due to construction traffic, the Council would re-surface the road even though it was not an adopted highway.

Having made enquiries as to why the road has not had repairs completed, officers from Culture and Leisure Services inform me that the traffic movements for the development of the Leisure Centre were far less than originally anticipated and the condition of the road prior to the development was documented as poor.

(a)  Can you confirm whether the residents on Mortomley Close were informed of this and that the registered landowners of Mortomley Close would be responsible to undertake repairs/improvements to the road’s condition and whether they have been given a chance to comment on the decision?

(b)  The residents were left with a clear indication that following the completion of the work on Thorncliffe Leisure Centre, they could expect some improvements to the surface of the road.  Would the Council be prepared to commit to filling in the existing potholes while the precise details of what was promised are established?




Councillor Cate McDonald read out a response on behalf of Councillor Paul Wood (Executive Member for Housing, Roads and Waste Management), stating that there was a formal reply to this question outlining the Council’s decision as to why this was not a possibility.  However, if the Council had made promises they should be honoured.  To assist with clarification on this matter, Councillor Wood asked that any written communications that residents had received, whether it be by letter or email, be forwarded to his email address. Councillor Wood stated that under normal policy, the Council cannot carry out any repairs on unadopted roads as this could leave the Council with long term liabilities for any accidents or future issues that might arise, as well as changing the policy on unadopted roads.  He said that after carrying out further investigations, should it become clear that the Council had made promises, he would look into the matter and after reviewing all the facts, he would contact Mr. Wilson shortly.  Councillor Wood said that there may be other ways forward such as through the Parish Council, the Local Area Committee or the local community CIL and he would be happy to offer any advice on how to deal with the application should any further assistance be required.




(NOTE: Questions which had been submitted by Sam Wakeling, but which were not asked at the meeting, would receive a written response from the relevant Executive Member).