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. 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, questions/petitions are required to be submitted in writing, to, by 9.00 a.m. on Monday 27 February.  Questions/petitions submitted after the deadline will be asked at the meeting subject to the discretion of the Lord Mayor.


2. For this particular meeting, it is expected that the one-hour 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.)




Lord Mayor’s Communications




The Lord Mayor (Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards) reported that an amount just over £400 had been raised from the collection in support of the Turkey/Syria Earthquake Appeal, held at the meeting of the Council on 20th February, and that the collection would be forwarded to the Disasters Emergency Committee Earthquake Appeal, with the Government having promised to provide match funding against funds raised from the public.




The Lord Mayor then referred to the reading sessions for schoolchildren held at least once a week in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in the Town Hall, whereby a class from a different school on each occasion is invited to visit to talk about books, to read and be read to, and to eat cake and learn about the office of the Lord Mayor.  She reported that she had recently received several letters from pupils of Brunswick Community School offering thanks and feedback on the highlights of their visit, and she read out several of these at the meeting, which provided an often humorous insight on the pupil’s experiences of those reading sessions. 




The Lord Mayor also referred to her comments, made at the previous meeting of the Council on 20th February, that she had attended the opening night’s performance of “Standing at the Skye’s Edge” at the National Theatre, London, which had been an amazing experience, and she reported that the show had recently been nominated for eight Olivier Awards, which was the maximum number of nominations that could be received by one show.




She concluded her communications by reporting that Dan Johnstone, a teacher in Sheffield operating from the Red Tape Studios, had recently won Instrumental Teacher of the Year at the National Music and Drama Awards, and she extended her congratulations to Dan on behalf of the City Council.




Petitions and Public Questions




The Lord Mayor (Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards) reported that questions from two members of the public had been received prior to the published deadline for submission of petitions and questions for this meeting.  No petitions had been received.  She invited each questioner to ask their question.




Question From Dylan Lewis-Creser




Dylan Lewis-Creser asked the following question - Given the increase in LGBTIQA+ hate incidents and hate crimes, with an increase of 41% on the basis of sexual orientation and 56% on the basis of transgender identity according to the UK government, what is the Council doing to protect LGBTIQA+ residents of Sheffield and how is the Council engaging with LGBTIQA+ groups in the city to work collaboratively in the interests of all residents?




In response, Councillor Richard Williams (Chair of the Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee) stated that Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire Police and our partners, work together to make sure the city is a welcoming and safe place for all local people and for visitors to enjoy. The Safer Sheffield Partnership has a statutory duty to address and reduce community safety issues in the city and one of our key priorities is to protect vulnerable people.




The Government introduced the Serious Violence Duty on 31st January, 2023. This duty was intended to create the right conditions for authorities to collaborate and communicate, using existing partnerships where possible to share information and take coordinated action to tackle serious violence.




Councillor Williams said that, following the similar question asked by a Member of the Council at the previous Council meeting, he had agreed to meet, as soon as practical, with members of the transgender community to discuss issues of concerns.




He added that Sheffield City Council supports the Equality Partnership which aims to bring together groups who share protected characteristics under the Equality Act to amplify underrepresented voices from our diverse communities.




As part of that, the Council funds LGBT Sheffield to coordinate an LGBT+ partnership (as one of 7). We also work with and fund SAYiT to support LGBTQ+ young people in the city. Additionally, we support several awareness raising events within the city throughout the year, for example, Pinknic, LGBT+ History Month, Trans Day of Remembrance and IDAHOBiT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which will be held this year on 17th May).




Questions From Annie O’Gara




Annie O’Gara asked the following questions - In 2019, this Council voted to recognise the State of Palestine. This was a welcome symbolic step, signalling the Council’s commitment to international justice and its solidarity with a people under occupation. 


And yet, at the last Council meeting we all witnessed the silencing of the legitimate concerns of a Sheffield citizen as she attempted to read out a question regarding proposed twinning between the citizens of Sheffield and those of the city of Nablus, in occupied Palestine. 


·       Will the Council Leader apologise to the Mayor of Nablus for the Council's lack of courtesy in failing to respond to the Mayor’s letter for over three years?

·       Will the Leader acknowledge that Sheffield citizens have a legitimate right to speak out about the oppression of the Palestinian people, including referring to the perpetrators of that oppression, the Israeli Government?

·       Before making his intervention in the last Council meeting, did the Legal Officer consider the requirements of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is legally binding, and which protects freedom of expression within the law?  Why did the non-legally binding IHRA policy take precedence over Article 10?


Finally, the Council will be aware that the “Israeli Government” is NOT the same as “Jewish people”. Indeed, many Jewish people in this city are emphatically opposed to the actions which the Israeli Government takes against the Palestinian people.




In response, the Leader of the Council (Councillor Terry Fox) stated that in relation to the question regarding the Council failing to respond to the Mayor of Nablus’ letter, he would be signing a letter later this day responding to the Mayor’s letter, on behalf of himself and the Council.  On the point regarding engagement, he stated that the Council took an active part in Palfest (Palestine Festival of Literature) last year and spoke with several community organisations on matters such as culture, education, dance, etc., taking the opportunity to engage with community groups across the city.  As regards the question regarding the advice provided at the previous Council meeting by the Council’s legal officer, Councillor Fox stated that it would not be appropriate for him to respond at the meeting to public questions relating to Council officers, but instead he would provide a written response to Ms. O’Gara which would respond to the matters raised within her second and third questions.   He added that he and all other Members of the Council were obliged to take cognisance of the Lord Mayor, as chair of the Council meetings, and to comply with rulings and requests made by the chair in relation to the proceedings of the meeting.  He concluded his response by stating that he would ensure that the written response would address all the issues raised in Ms. O’Gara’s questions.




The Lord Mayor reported that a question from another member of the public had been received after the published deadline for submission of petitions and questions for this meeting and, on this occasion, she had not given permission for the question to be asked.  The subject matter of that question was the proposed introduction of red lines on Ecclesall Road, which was currently the subject of a consultation exercise, and could therefore be raised as part of that process.