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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.


(b)       Petition Requiring Debate


            The Council’s Petitions Scheme requires that any petition containing over 5,000 signatures be the subject of debate at the Council meeting.  A qualifying petition has been received as follows:-


            Petition regarding the Learning Disability Services Residential Contract


            To debate a petition containing just over 5,000 signatures opposing the potential privatisation of the Learning Disability Service.  The wording of the petition is as follows:-


           We the undersigned are opposed to the potential privatisation of the learning disability service in Sheffield.  This service has been run for nearly 40 years by the health service to a high standard and should not be auctioned off to the lowest tender.  We call upon Sheffield City Council to drop proposals to outsource this service and instead work with the health service to maintain these high standards of care and further improve upon them where possible.  If you agree, we would highly appreciate your signature.”







Petition Objecting to Planning Application 14/03473/FUL – 162 to 170 Devonshire Street




The Council received a joint paper and electronic petition containing 18,691 signatures and objecting to Planning Application 14/03473/FUL – 162 to 170 Devonshire Street.




On behalf of the petitioners, Jonathan Butcher addressed the Council. He stated that the petition related to the proposed planning application to demolish properties on Devonshire Street and erect a 3 storey building in their place. There was concern that the proposals would affect the cultural landscape and identity of the area. The petition had reached over 18 thousand signatories in a short time and there were 600 written objections on the planning area of the Council Website.  Independent businesses were a vital part of the City economy and the cultural scene, including the area of Devonshire Street was an important aspect of students choosing to live and study in Sheffield and was also important in attracting small and medium sized business to the City and to investors. The properties were part of the City’s identity.




The change of class use from retail to leisure was also of concern and the social and economic advantages of such a change of use were open to question. There might also be anti-social behaviour arising from a change to leisure use.

He said that other areas of the city centre might be a more appropriate location for such a development to take place and drew attention to the amount of opposition to the proposals.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development. Councillor Bramall stated that he agreed that the Devonshire Quarter was a valuable area of the City, as were other places including the Antiques Quarter and Kelham Island, which were also attractive to people. He stated that the Council had a statutory duty to consider every planning application. The Council Website listing indicated only that an application had been received. It did not denote that an application had been approved, nor that the matter had been considered. The Council’s Planning and Highways Committee made decisions on planning applications, on the basis of a report and officer recommendations and national planning law was used to determine applications.




He acknowledged the public concerns which had been brought to the Council’s attention and said that anyone concerned or against the application should submit objections. The decision would be made by the Committee, which comprised all political groups on the Council. The public interest and strength of feeling on this proposal was evident and the application would be dealt with as quickly as possible. However, Councillor Bramall stated that he could not predetermine the outcome of the application, which was subject to the quasi-judicial process of the Planning Committee. 




Petition Requesting the Reinstatement of the Free Bee Bus Service




The Council received a petition containing 488 signatures requesting the reinstatement of the Free Bee bus service.




On behalf of the petitioners, Jackie Milner addressed the Council. She stated that she represented Sheffield Pensioners Action Group and had been informed that 14 buses serviced the bottom of the Moor and Moor Markets. She said that she was fortunate in that the bus service which she used did go to the Moor Market.  People were saying that there was not information to tell them which bus they should catch to get to the bottom of the Moor. This was having an impact on the success of the Moor Market and Market Traders were also concerned. It was suggested that signs should at least be produced to tell people which bus to catch and from where in order to travel to the Moor Market.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development.  Councillor Bramall acknowledged the concerns expressed about the withdrawal of the Freebee Bus service. He said this had been a decision made by the South Yorkshire Transport Authority and had been brought about by the budget cuts, which meant that the Transport Authority had less money to spend.




The issue was how the bus services bound for the Moor Market could be promoted. Bus operators already charged a 50 pence flat rate for bus journeys made within the City Centre. He agreed that the lack of information concerning bus services and fares was a problem and it needed to be examined. The Market did have a marketing budget with which to carry out promotion and Councillor Bramall stated that he would speak with the relevant people with a view to improving the information regarding bus services to the Moor Market.




Petition Objecting to the Proposed Construction of a Tesco Express Store in Stannington




The Council received a petition containing 884 signatures, objecting to the proposed construction of a Tesco Express store in Stannington.




On behalf of the petitioners, Clare Probert addressed the Council. She stated that work had begun on the conversion of the former public house in Stannington to a Tesco store and it was understood that planning permission would be required for some elements of the new store.



People objected to the Tesco store on several grounds, including the potential noise problems and other behaviours associated with the sale of alcohol. The benefit of a cash machine at the premises was also brought into question, as there was already such a facility in the village. The location of the development was on a blind bend and there was concern for road safety and particularly that of pedestrians. She asked whether a pedestrian crossing would be included in the proposals. There was also concern as to how deliveries would be made to the store and the road safety implications of increased traffic brought into the area by customers. She said it was local people and local business which would be most affected by the creation of the Tesco store and she asked what was the benefit of the development for local people.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development. Councillor Bramall stated that, whilst he was not familiar with the details, he would refer the matter to the Council’s planning officers. He explained that there was national planning law and, within that framework, some issues were not material considerations. The Council as planning authority did not have powers to refuse an application on the grounds of a change of use in this instance. Permissions would be required if there were significant external changes proposed.




In relation to the matters raised as regards licensing, Councillor Isobel Bowler, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, stated that Licensing Objectives were a consideration, in the granting of a premises licence and one of these was the prevention of crime and disorder. If there were problems relating to  premises including noise and crime and disorder, a request could be made for a review of the license, for which evidence would be required. 




Petition Regarding the use of Totley Scout Hut by Wild at Play


The Council received a petition containing 214 signatures complaining about the use of Totley Scout Hut by Wild at Play.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Avril Critchley who stated that the Scout hut was sub-let to Wild at Play, but it was believed that this was in breach of the terms of the lease. There had been no consultation or consent given regarding the use of the Scout hut for the purposes to which it was put by Wild at Play. The hut was used from 7.30 am until 6.00pm Monday to Friday. Activities which took place included: birthday parties, a before school club, toddler club and kinder club, after school club and holiday camps. Ofsted, having inspected the facility had said it was not adequate. There was some encroachment into the adjacent field, without permission and conservation work in the wood was at risk. The lighting of fires caused discomfort and had health implications. Some trees had been cut down and there was concern for the flora at that location, including the bluebells, which were a protected species.




Noise and parking problems affected residents and there was also concern regarding the welfare of rabbits and hens. Several departments of the City Council had been contacted with regard to these issues and it was understood that investigations were being led by Kier. A meeting had taken place on 7 October 2014, the outcome of which was awaited.




There were too many children on the site and whilst the value of the provision was understood, it was felt that this particular location was the wrong place to accommodate that number of children as it had an adverse effect on local residents. She stated that the Scouts had previously used the site in peace and harmony with local people.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council. Councillor Dore stated that she had received a letter concerning this matter on 6 October 2014, which was investigated. She acknowledged that some of the activities which were provided for children and young people at the site might be welcome. However, there was an issue regarding the unauthorised use of the Scout Hut. A planning contravention notice was issued in relation to the site.




Councillor Dore stated that she had this morning received the result of the meeting which had taken place on 7 October. The Scouts Association had served a 3 month notice on Wild About Play to vacate the site. It would be for the Scouts to consider the best use of the building. She had been assured that the Scouts Association would consider what was required with regard to the site in future and would consult with residents. 




Petition requesting the reinstatement of the “Lollipop Lady” outside Ann’s Grove School




The Council received a paper petition containing approximately 150 signatures requesting the reinstatement of the lollipop lady outside Ann’s Grove School.




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Rachael Crolla who stated that the petitioners were requesting the reinstatement of the lollipop lady, who had given service outside Ann’s Grove School for 13 years. She informed the Council that since the submission of the petition, the lady had now been reinstated at that location.




The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene. Councillor Scott stated that he had spoken with local ward Councillors and with the Headteacher. He noted that the school had been most helpful in finding a solution to this matter.  It had been proposed that the School Crossing Patrol Warden in question would move to Bankwood Primary School. Local Councillors had agreed to fund a School Crossing Patrol post at Ann’s Grove School. However, he did not wish to leave Bankwood School without a school crossing patrol and wanted to recruit to the vacant post as soon as possible. Councillor Scott proposed that he meet with the petitioners to discuss the matter further. 




Public Questions




Public Question Concerning Question and Answer Protocols




Marcus O’Hagan stated that he had asked a number of questions to Council in the past few years concerning child protection, safeguarding and libraries. He said that he was prevented from putting questions on a child protection issue and raised this at a recent meeting of Council. He had made suggestions regarding protocols and follow up procedures for people who weren’t satisfied with the answers given. 




He informed the Council that Councillor Iqbal had met him today to make an appointment with the Leader of the Council.




He said that he had not received satisfactory answers to over 20 questions which he had put to the Council. He said that he had received correspondence from the Council asserting that the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) had instructed the Council not to process requests for review.




He asked the following questions:




1.    Can the Council provide documentation regarding the instruction from the Information Commissioner


2.    What does the Council consider the effect on this citizen and democracy in the City will be


3.    He stated that the Leader of the Council has stated that any member of Cabinet found to be deliberately misleading her group within the Council would be removed from office. With reference to questions which he had put to Councillor Iqbal, Mr O’Hagan said he had only one record of response, and that was regarding a petition. He asked  will the Leader be taking appropriate action


4.    Given this record, are we to assume or expect that Ed Vaizey has been treated similarly? 




Councillor Jackie Drayton, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families stated, in reference to Mr O’Hagan’s assertion that he had been prevented from putting a question concerning child protection, that the Council took any question concerning child protection very seriously. She referred to the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 3 September 2014. At that meeting, Mr O’Hagan had said there was a flawed procedure and in response, he had been told that if he wishes to take up any such matter with the Council then he should do so and Councillor Drayton had invited him to inform her of any specific concerns about a safeguarding matter. The Council had a dedicated service and it was expected that the service would respond to all enquiries. If this process was not working, then the Council must investigate such concerns. Councillor Drayton stated that Mr O’Hagan had not contacted her. 




Councillor Julie Dore stated that if a matter was confidential or sensitive and regarding an individual, then the Council would not respond in public but a response would be made in private to any matter which needed to be addressed and especially if this related to child protection.




She apologised that she had said that a meeting would be arranged with Mr O’Hagan and this had not been done. Councillor Iqbal had now spoken with Mr O’Hagan and a meeting would be arranged to address the issues which he raised and other questions so that he received a proper response to them.




Councillor Mazher Iqbal, the Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, stated that he was sorry that Mr O’Hagan felt that he had not provided full answers to questions he had raised and he said these could be answered at the forthcoming meeting. He would request that Council officers were also present at that meeting.




Public Question Concerning Job Creation




Jose Angel Garcia stated that employability was one of the main issues in the City. He asked why the Council had a Senior Officer Employment Committee and not a City Employment Committee dealing with this issue.




Mr Garcia referred to the Notice of Motion on the agenda and the Strategic Economic Plan of which one of the most important points was the creation of 70 thousand jobs in 10 years. He said almost nothing was said about the employability of people with disabilities. He asked which strategies were proposed in this regard and what will be new or different?




He asked how programs like the City Deal can work without collaboration with employers and businesses. He asked how feasible it would be to provide tax incentives to those wishing to open a business in a location which had been empty for years or for a business which will hire disabled people.




Mr Garcia asked how the Council would play a role in championing mental health issues.




In response, Councillor Leigh Bramall, the Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development, stated that the Strategic Economic Plan did not include detail on employability. It focussed upon economic growth, investment, how to attract jobs and access to jobs. There was a committee for Sheffield for employment, which was the Work and Skills Board, which he chaired and which included representatives of the universities and colleges. The Board fed Sheffield’s views to the City Region. There was also private sector representation on the Local Enterprise Partnership.




With regard to employment for disabled people, there was the progress to work scheme which was being worked up at present, to help people with disabilities achieve well. A national pilot was also in place to help target people on disability support allowance and this was being progressed with the Clinical Commissioning Group and Job Centre Plus. A scheme would be launched next year to facilitate business use of empty premises.




Councillor Bramall stated that he would be able to provide more detail in writing to Mr Garcia, if he so wished




Public Questions Concerning Winter Gritting




Sandra Butler asked how much money was being saved by not gritting on Blindside Lane.




Grace Windle stated that she had been in contact with Councillor Jack Scott and the Chief Executive of the Council. She asked a question concerning the criteria for gritting a road and why 4 grit bins had been installed on Blindside Lane. She said that people’s lives were potentially in danger and the road was steep and sharp and commented that there was supposedly a campaign relating to road safety in rural areas.




In response, Councillor Jack Scott, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene, stated that there were clear criteria relating to precautionary gritting and Blindside Lane did not meet the criteria. Peak Pitts Lane had been reinstated as a route which would be gritted because of changes which reinstated the bus route. Councillor Scott said that he had corresponded with both of the questioners and the Chief Executive had advised that the discussion on the issue gritting of Blindside Lane could go no further and that the questioners could go the Local Government Ombudsman if they were not satisfied. 




Public Questions Concerning Household Waste Recycling Centres




Dave May asked what the Council’s view was on the structure of the charitable company running the Household Waste Recycling Centres, Salvaire, where the Chair of the charity is also the chair of the trading subsidiary, Green Co, delivering the service and is also 100% shareholder of a printing and marketing company that charges tens of thousands of pounds in consultancy fees.




Sharon Lowrie stated that she was the former Green Co Finance Director who had challenged this structure and value for money internally at Board meetings. She said that, in a telephone call to Councillor Scott on 30 May, she shared some good news stories about the recycle service, the fact that a living wage settlement had been reached with the workforce and plans to open the recycle centres for longer, all within budget. She said that she had now been sacked and a further 3 colleagues were subsequently sacked or bullied out of their jobs. She asked if the Council believed that this was pure coincidence.




Geoffrey Broomhead (supported by Jim Rodgers) stated that he had worked the Household Waste Recycling Centres for 14 years, he was partially deaf and had learning difficulties. Together with others, he had walked out for 2 hours when another disabled worker was bullied to breaking point by the management team 2 weeks ago. As a consequence, Geoff and these workers had been disciplined for gross misconduct and they were likely to be sacked. He asked the Council’s view of the bullying of these workers, who had done no more than to stand up for a disabled and vulnerable colleague.




Andrew Whitehead stated that in the past two years, the former management had developed employment services for some of the most hard to reach young people in the community, some of whom were in work and in attendance at this meeting. He said the workforce were united and committed to delivering a service to the people of Sheffield and keeping funds in the City for the benefit of Sheffield. He commented that the GMB supported that plan, but clearly Veolia and the charity, Salvaire did not. He asked whether the Council [supported the plan] and if it would intervene in the dispute.




Pete Davies stated that since the former management team have been sacked or forced out of their jobs, this is had affected pay and health and safety. Wages had been incorrect and COTC cover was below contract specifications. The 3 sites that remained open were being run by (according to Veolia) friends family and volunteers of the new management team and Salvaire Chair. He stated that he had met yesterday with Veolia. Their response had been to train agency staff to break the dispute. He commented that anyone could be working on these public sites and asked did the Council care and, if so, when will it intervene.




Anthony Robshaw stated that the entire workforce have expressed a formal vote of no confidence in the Salvaire Chair. He asked how the dispute could be resolved whilst such a breakdown in this working relationship exists and how this is in the interests of the Council.




Gordon Parkes stated that part of the dispute concerned the lack of investment in welfare facilities at Deepcar and Highgreen. He asked if the dispute was being used as a smokescreen to justify the complete and permanent closure of these two sites.




Councillor Jack Scott, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene stated that it was considered that a charity structure was an appropriate model for the procurement of the Household Waste Recycling Service. He stated that the Chair of the Charity was due to stand down. The perception of the service was very positive and there was nothing wrong in principle in using a charity to which to sub-contract work.




He said that he would not comment on the circumstances of Sharon Lowrie’s dismissal, as it would not be fair to her or to others and he did not have the full facts of the case. The Council was not the employer in this case and there were a range of factors that led to a breakdown in director and management relationships. It was the Council’s policy to make sure allegations of bullying were investigated and he had tasked the Council’s Chief Executive to investigate the allegations of bullying.




The Council had said that it would look at all options and all of the parties in the dispute would need to sit down and discuss matters and analyse the situation. Councillor Scott stated that he wanted a fair resolution to the dispute.




With regards health and safety, Council Officers inspected sites to make sure they complied with safety and contract standards. If there was evidence of a breach, this should be reported immediately to the Council’s Waste Management Team.




In the context of cuts to the Council budget, no services could be entirely protected. The dispute was not a “smokescreen” and the Council wanted to resolve it fairly, quickly and amicably.




The matter could only be resolved by all parties understanding the issues, through consultation and looking at long-term solutions to providing a good service, good jobs, especially for vulnerable people and everyone needed to sit down together and discuss the matter as soon as possible.




Public Questions Concerning the Supported Living Service




Alistair Tice asked whether the Council was aware of the consequences of the privatisation of Supported Living Services in Doncaster some 15 months ago which had resulted in pay cuts and diminished conditions of employment for former Doncaster Council staff. He commented that some experienced staff had been forced to leave their employment because of the pay cuts and had been replaced by staff with a lack of training.




Councillor Mary Lea, the Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living responded that she was aware of the circumstances in Doncaster involving Care UK. Sheffield now had a Supported Living Provider Framework and 27 organisations had been successful out of 64. 10 organisations had bid for the Supported Living provision in Handsworth out of which 4 had been shortlisted (this did not include Care UK). The process of deciding which of the 4 organisations would provide Supported Living in Handsworth would include residents and their families. There were already independent providers operating services in the City and they provided good services. The Council was robust in the way it monitored services and had a good relationship with service providers.




Public Questions Concerning Adoption of Land, Community Engagement Minutes of Meetings and Community Rooms




Winnie Smith stated that she was from the Arbourthorne Tenants and Residents Association (TARA) and that the Committee of the TARA would like to speak with someone about adopting the island outside of the Jury’s Inn on Arundel Gate/Charles Street, including the use of a gardener, so it could be properly maintained and made to look decent.




Secondly, she asked why the community engagement team did not have to take proper minutes of meetings and whether the TARAs could do the same short record without getting deregistered. She said there was no proof of what had been said and what had been agreed.




Thirdly, Winnie Smith asked why the Council was conducting a survey of community rooms and other places and asked if it was another step to ‘get rid of’ TARAs. She also commented on the heating in the venue used by the TARA.




With regards to the adoption of the Island on Arundel Gate/Charles Street, Councillor Harpham said that, if this was possible it is something which could happen as the Council was interested in getting local groups to look after local spaces.




As regards the minutes of meetings, Councillor Harpham stated that he would speak with the Engagement Team concerning keeping records of meetings.




In relation to community rooms, the Council needed to know the condition of community rooms in the City. He stated that TARAs were invaluable as part of driving the development of a first rate housing service in Sheffield.




Councillor Harpham stated that he would contact Winnie Smith with regard to the other issues which she had raised.




Public Question Concerning Federation for Housing




Ken Turton stated that he had not received a reply to questions concerning a Federation for Housing Recognition. He said that the Council had established posts of liaison officer in 8 areas, to perform tasks which the Federation could do for free.   He asked why the Liaison Officers were doing work that the Federation could do and referred to questions which had been raised with the Cabinet Member, which he stated, had not been answered.




Councillor Harry Harpham, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, responded to the questions. He stated that Mr Turton had raised questions in September and he had met with him 2 or 3 weeks later at which time he had asked him to leave his details. A letter had been sent to the Chair of the Federation. He stated that he and Councillor Tony Damms had also met with the Federation.




The Council supported the idea of an independent and democratic tenants’ federation. Funding had been given for 6 months and the process by which more funding could be obtained had been set out. A federation could not be said to be independent if it was funded entirely by the Council and to be truly independent, the federation must be supported by the City’s TARAs and tenants’ movements. A democratic structure was needed at the top of the federation and, at the present time, the steering committee was not stable with members of the committee leaving and returning to posts. Therefore, it could not be said to be either democratic or accountable. Neither did the federation have the support of many TARAs.




If the federation met certain criteria, including that it was independent, democratic and transparent, then Councillor Harpham stated that he would support such an organisation, which would be good for the City.




Public Question Concerning Compensation due to Road Works




Neale Barker stated that he was a Director of Barkers Furniture in Hillsborough and expressed concerns at the adverse effect of road works which were taking place in the area. He had sent correspondence relating to the contractor for Sainsbury’s that was undertaking the works and pointed to the delays in completing the road works. He asked for advice on how financial compensation could be obtained.




Councillor Leigh Bramall, the Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development replied that there were two sets of works, firstly, the pinch-point scheme nearer to the City Centre, which was a City Council and Passenger Transport Executive scheme and which was ahead of schedule. Secondly, there was the work relating to Sainsbury’s. It appeared that the subcontractors for the Sainsbury’s related works had caused some delays. The City Council had no power to force Sainsbury’s to compensate but would write to local traders to explain what options might be open to traders. 




Public Question Concerning Devolution Proposals




Nigel Slack referred to the announcements concerning new powers to northern cities, including Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. He made reference to an article in The Guardian newspaper concerning the establishment in Manchester of a directed elected Mayor.




Mr Slack asked the following questions:




1.      How does the Council think of Manchester jumping ship on the other Northern cities?

2.      Do the Council agree with the approach that gives business leaders a chance to vote on these devolution proposals but no vote for the public that will pay for them?

3.      With reference to a summit to be held on 4 November in Leeds to debate the issue he asked which experts and business leaders from Sheffield will be attending?

4.      Do the two remaining councils involved see the trap that Manchester is being led into?

5.      Does the Council agree with the potential imposition of a directly elected Mayor that we rejected in 2012?

6.      Will the Council accept administering the hateful welfare to work programme?




Councillor Leigh Bramall, the Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development, stated that he believed that devolution in some form was beneficial to cities and Sheffield had demonstrated that it could implement projects better than central government was able to do and he cited the example of the government led Work Programme, which he said, had failed. Successful projects led by the City included getting people into work, the 100 Apprenticeship Programme and the City Deal programme. There may be opportunities to do further projects as part of wider devolution proposals.




However, he said that devolution should not be something which was imposed but rather it should be discussed and there should be agreement as to which powers were relevant. He agreed that an elected mayor should not be imposed and said that devolved powers should not be tied to the concept of an elected mayor. He did not wish to speak for people in Manchester. Devolution should not be about passporting budget cuts to local areas and a fair approach should be taken. He referred to the disparity between transport spending per head in London and Sheffield.  A proper discussion on devolution and devolved powers was required, including the issue of flexibility.




Public Question Concerning the Planning Process




Nigel Slack stated that the planning system was mired in controversy and poor public relations and two particular proposals are causing the bulk of the problems. Whilst he refrained from referring to specific applications, Mr Slack asked the following questions in general terms:


1.      When a planning application on the Council's website indicates a determination deadline date, what does that mean?


2.      Where a planning guideline indicates a ratio of different usage types within an area, i.e. between A1 and A3 uses, will the recommendation by officers and the decision of the Planning Committee on this aspect of the proposal be based on the current guidelines, guidelines proposed but rejected by the Council on some previous occasion or a developer’s feeling as to the likely future guidelines yet to be tabled or put to a Council decision making process?




Councillor Leigh Bramall, the Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development, replied that he did not necessarily agree with the premise of the question relating to poor public relations. Planning should be a proper process and not necessarily about public relations. Consideration must be given to the facts set before an elected body, namely the Planning and Highways Committee which would make decisions in accordance with current guidelines.




Councillor Bramall stated that he would send further detail to Mr Slack by email.




Public Question Concerning the Police and Crime Commissioner By-election




Nigel Slack stated that the Police and Crime Commissioner election was neither a particularly legitimate expression of democracy with less than 15% turnout; and a winner with less than 8% of the electorate voting for them. Nor was it a value for money exercise costing approximately £11.50 per vote cast. He said that, in addition, Doncaster reported that of their electorate only 3.5% voted at the ballot box, the remaining 11.5% being postal votes. He asked the following:


1.      What was the ratio of postal to ballot box votes in Sheffield?

2.      With 86% of the electorate not voting, no party was in a position to take the moral high ground about who did or did not publicly support voting. The supporters of all parties stayed away from the ballot box and it seems unlikely they listened to any of the politicians pro or anti voting in this particular election. Can the Council please urge all politicians to act more responsibly over such issues?




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, replied that she would ask the Returning Officer to provide a response for Mr Slack on the ratio of postal votes to ballot box votes.




She stated that she was not in Sheffield on the day of the Police and Crime Commissioner By-election but said that she had campaigned and had a postal vote. In terms of acting responsibly, Councillor Dore made reference to the Notice of Motion on the Summons for this meeting concerning the proposed extension of voting age to those aged between 16 and 18 years. She emphasised the importance of people exercising their right to vote, especially if they were themselves a politician; and if necessary they should make sure they had a postal vote.




Public Questions Concerning Good Samaritans




Martin Brighton stated that the Metro newspaper had reported that Sheffield has been named as the country’s top city for having good Samaritans. He asked what will this Council do to maintain this starring accolade.




In response, Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council stated that Sheffield was the top City for having good Samaritans and there were stories of such acts on daily basis, a fact which had now been recognised and she said the Council would look at what could be done to maintain this situation.




Public Question Concerning Safeguarding




Martin Brighton stated that six years ago to the day, in this chamber, he raised the issue of the Council’s failure to ensure that organised activities for children were supervised by adults who had undergone what were then known as CRB checks. He stated that the explosive reaction of the Council, and the consequential fireworks, are now a matter of public record. Mr Brighton asked what progress has this Council made since then in this regard.




Councillor Jackie Drayton, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, responded to the question. She said that she could not remember the occasion to which Mr Brighton referred so she had looked at the minutes of the Council meeting held on 5 November 2008 and found the question from Mr Brighton and the subsequent response from the Leader of the Council at that time, former Councillor Paul Scriven.




Councillor Drayton stated that the Council took accusations very seriously, especially matters relating to safeguarding. The CRB regime had now been replaced by the Disclosure and Barring Service. Eligibility criteria had changed. Regulated activity relating to children included, teaching, training, care, supervision and advice or guidance on wellbeing. Exceptions to regulated activity included family and personal relationships.




A great deal of work had been done in the City regarding the discharge of responsibilities relating to safeguarding and she referred to the work of the Safeguarding Children Board in developing a learning and improvement framework for organisations working with children. Background checks were performed if an individual had unsupervised contact with children, which might include sports activities. Parents were advised to check anyone running activities for children and to ask for evidence of such checks.




Councillor Julie Dore, the Leader of the Council, stated that Council had recently considered a Motion concerning safeguarding and protection and it was hoped that the issue would be considered again at the meeting of Council in January 2015.




Public Question Concerning Responses to Questions




Martin Brighton asked if there was any reason why questions put in writing at meetings of the Council cannot be answered appropriately, or written follow-ups processed in keeping with the FoIA (Freedom of Information Act) such that the information sought is provided.




Councillor Julie Dore responded that she believed that the questions which Mr Brighton asked were answered appropriately and, if there was an occasion when she had not done so, she requested Mr Brighton to point it out to her.




Public Question Concerning Complaints




Martin Brighton stated that in this chamber, elected members have heard that some of those who originally made anonymous complaints about him must come forward or be named. He thanked people for their replies. He asked what possible objection could there be to the naming and shaming of the local self-ascribed politicians who have used anonymity on the Internet to insult and otherwise ‘throw proverbial bangers’ and attack him.




Councillor Julie Dore responded with regard to anonymous complaints that whilst she was aware that some people used the internet and social media to insult or abuse others in writing, she did not use the internet or social media herself and she would condemn such misuse of social media. She believed that if someone had something to say then they should stand up and account for what they had said.




Public Question Concerning Member Conduct




Mr Brighton asked if the Council believed, as applied to elected members, albeit euphemistically in these modern times, that those who live by the sword should die by the sword, especially their own, or don heat-resistant gloves and be content with charges of hypocrisy.




Councillor Julie Dore replied that if Mr Brighton believed that she was hypocritical, he should point this out to her.




Public Question Concerning Democratic Process




Mr Brighton stated that the opinion of the Council Leader on the ‘gunpowder and plot’ tactics that pass for local democracy has been duly noted. He asked did this chamber collectively agree with the Council Leader that all democratic processes should be free from secret plots and manipulations.




Councillor Dore stated that with regard to the Gunpowder Plot, she believed that all democratic processes should be free from manipulation.




Public Question Concerning Policy Documents




Mr Brighton asked whether, given the Council Leader’s announcement that all policy documents should be made freely available, can we now expect to see a stellar fountain of documents, or will we again get burnt.




Councillor Dore replied that most of the City Council policy documents were made available on the Council’s website and may have also been subject of consultation and publicity. If Mr Brighton could not find a particular policy document, she suggested that he informs the Council and she said she was sure that access could be obtained to the documents in an appropriate form.




Public Question Concerning the Learning Disability Service




Jane Irvin stated that she was attending the Council meeting to represent her sister who was a resident at the Handsworth residential home and on behalf of other relatives of residents.




She said that her sister had down syndrome and had been diagnosed as being at the severe end of the scale. She had no spoken language and was also physically disabled. She explained that the policy with regard to Supported Living would mean that the people who had effectively been her sister’s family and support for 28 years would be no longer. It was felt that the policy was a cost-cutting exercise and she wanted the Council to be aware of the human cost. When her sister woke, she would not know who the people looking after her were. She described the trauma which her sister experienced last time there was such a change. This had caused her to self-harm. Whilst she could not speak, her sister still had feelings. She asked how with the trauma which her sister would undoubtedly suffer as a result of the proposed changes would be dealt with?




Councillor Mary Lea, the Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living stated that she did not know the individual circumstances of Jane Irvine’s family. However, the community support which we know today did not used to exist for people with learning disabilities and people were often placed in hospital care. Much had changed since that time. It seemed likely that Ms Irvine’s sister had also made that journey through the changing care settings and that she had had a difficult time.




There was a transition process as part of the Supported Living model of care and she assured her that her sister would receive the right care and would not simply find that a new carer had been put in place. A decision making process had taken place on 4 November and if there was a change of provider, that provider would know a lot about the people who were resident in the Handsworth home. Care would be taken to make sure things were done in a careful way and that there was dignity in the process of change. Councillor Lea said that she was sure that the carers understood her sister and how to care for her. She stated that individual carers may have changed over time, but that people were able to make the transition. The changes would be carefully monitored at each stage.








Petition Requesting Additional Litter/Dog Waste Bins around High Green


The Council received a petition containing 194 signatures requesting additional litter/dog waste bins around High Green.



There was no speaker to the petition. The Council referred the petition to Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene.




Petition Opposing the Potential Privatisation of the Disability Learning Service


The Council received an electronic petition containing 18 signatures opposing the potential privatisation of the Disability Learning Service.




There was no speaker to the petition. The Council referred the petition to Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living.   




Petition Opposing the Potential Privatisation of the Learning Disability Service




The Council received a petition containing 5,294 signatures opposing the potential privatisation of the Learning Disability Service.




As the petition contained more than 5000 signatures and, at the request of the lead petitioner, under the Council’s Petitions Scheme, the petition was subject to a public debate by the Council. 




The wording of the petition was as follows:-




We the undersigned are opposed to the potential privatisation of the learning disability service in Sheffield.  This service has been run for nearly 40 years by the health service to a high standard and should not be auctioned off to the lowest tender.  We call upon Sheffield City Council to drop proposals to outsource this service and instead work with the health service to maintain these high standards of care and further improve upon them where possible.  If you agree, we would highly appreciate your signature.”




Representations on behalf of the petitioners were made by Charlie Carruth. He stated that UNISON had been running a campaign on the issue of the Learning Disability Service for some 9 months and had attempted to be fair and amicable. However, he stated that some of the statements which had been made were not borne out by the information that was being provided to people. He said there was a choice not to outsource the provision. He said the Health and Social Care Trust had indicated that they would sit down with UNISON and discuss the issue.




He stated that the budget situation was understood. The service users in question were people with learning disabilities or might have mental health or other needs all of whom were vulnerable people and they should not be put in a position where they were unsure as to what was happening and who would care for them in future. He said that the idea that the contract could be changed and at the same time there could be continuity was false. The transfer of provision presently at Handsworth would take place on 5 January 2015 and a satisfactory handover would not be likely as there was a potential liability on the NHS if it helped to provide a reasonable transition.    




Council officers had said that the payment of the Living Wage by provider organisations was an aspiration and not policy and it would take some time to implement. He said that this did not reflect the content of the Fairness Commission report relating to the Living Wage.




There would, he said, be casualties arising from the changes and the UNISON campaign related both to people’s concerns and to the consultation process. People had been told that this will happen and had, it was felt, been patronised and had not been listened to. He asked that the process was halted and referred to the relevant Scrutiny Committee of the Council so that a debate could take place about the service users in order that they received respect and obtained the services that they deserved.




In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 13.1 (b), the Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living made an initial response to the petitions, followed by the Shadow Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living.




Councillor Mary Lea, the Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living, responded to the petition. She stated that the decision concerning Learning Disability Services was a difficult decision to make. It had been agreed that the proposed model would provide the best possible care and support for people and the changes would improve their lives. The decision to adopt the Supported Living model had actually been taken some time ago and Supported Living was a recognised national model. There were records of the consultation meetings that had been held. The intention was for people to have more choice, control and independence, such as what time to get up or have breakfast and what to wear. People could also claim benefits if they were living independently. In the past, there were not the community care options that were now available and residential care was the primary option. Some changes will have occurred over time as some carers had moved on over time.




Councillor Lea outlined the process by which 64 organisations had applied to be part of the Supported Living Framework and 27 had been successful, including Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust. Quality was the most important factor and taking that into account, the organisations which had been shortlisted would have been shortlisted regardless of cost.




There were independent advocates who would make home visits and work closely with families. The process would be closely monitored and the Council wanted to ensure high quality and cost effective services, supported by a strong ethos and values and good management. There was confidence that the providers who were part of the Framework would be able to deliver and achieve the best outcomes for people with learning disabilities.




Members of the City Council then debated the issues raised by the petition. The points made by Members during the debate are summarised below:




·         It was expected that support would be given to people during the transition and Councillors also had a role as scrutineers of change and process. The way that people were cared for had changed considerably over time including from institutional to community settings.




·         The deep concern that people had about the effect of changes on people with learning disabilities including a new home and possibly a new carer was recognised. The aim was for people to have personalised services. Many services were delivered by the independent or voluntary sector and these were of equal quality and verified by the Care Quality Commission.




·         The question of whether there had been adequate consultation on the decision to contract out services was important. Quality of care was of the upmost importance.




·         The UNISON Ethical Care Charter considered the conditions for people working in home care settings and the care they offered to service users. The Charter set out standards for commissioning including those relating to the length of home visits, continuity of care and not using zero hour contracts and payment of the Living Wage.




·         We should insist upon high standards of care and service users and their families need to be confident in the ability of providers and that quality of care was paramount. The transition should be carried out in a supported way and any meetings which were part of this process should involve everyone who needed to be heard.




·         People should be supported to live a healthy and enriching life. Most of the funding for Learning Disabilities Services related to social care and came from local authority budgets, which had been cut by approximately half over 5 years. The Council therefore had to do the best with the resources that were available and Supported Living was a model of care which was being used to support people with learning disabilities. Parents and family members would be concerned to know who will provide support when they were not there.




·         It was recognised that change was difficult for people with learning disabilities their, families and staff. Staff worked in difficult circumstances on relatively low pay and may not feel valued. More funding was needed for social care. The Council wanted people with learning disabilities to develop greater independence and to make sure that services for them were the best they could possibly be with individualised care packages.




·         The process of change had begun in 2010 and the Council wanted the outcomes to be the best for all of those involved. The way that people were cared for was now more enlightened but it was appreciated that it was difficult for people to move from an existing to a new system. There were also concerns about the TUPE arrangements, payment of a Living wage and preservation of employee conditions. In the long term, the system should be one which best provided for people with learning disabilities.




Charlie Carruth, the Lead Petitioner, exercised a right of reply to the matters raised in the debate. He stated that whilst some changes were welcome, people wanted the service to be provided by the NHS and not the independent or private sector. He stated that the matter should be discussed and taken before the Council’s Scrutiny Committee before it progresses further. Care UK, he said, was a private organisation set up to make money from providing care services.




He stated that 4 providers in the process for the Handsworth contract were offering support workers £7 per hour and he said that experienced, qualified care staff would not be recruited at such rates of pay. He said that he would like the vote on this debate to be recorded. He asked what would happen if, when service users and their families were consulted, they did not wish to use any of the 4 prospective organisations. 




Councillor Mary Lea responded to issues raised during the debate. She acknowledged that this was a difficult and emotive subject. She said that consultation had run from 2010 to 2012, although there had been a period during which it had stopped.




Service users would be reassessed to understand their individual needs and this information would inform the bulk contract. There were many organisations in the independent sector which were now part of the Supported Living Framework.




The service users at the heart of the changes needed all of the relevant information and they would be supported through the independent advocacy service. There were also some rumours and myths which existed and it was most important that people had the correct information. She understood that such change was difficult for people.




The following composite outcome was agreed:-




It was RESOLVED: on the Motion of Councillor Mary Lea, seconded by Councillor Julie Dore, that the petition now submitted containing over 5,000 signatures opposing the potential privatisation of the learning disability service in Sheffield be referred for consideration by the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee which is to receive an update on the consultation process at its meeting to be held on 17th December 2014, and the City Council (a) directs that the Scrutiny Committee takes into account Unison’s Ethical Care Charter and (b) re-affirms its commitment to paying the Living Wage and not making use of zero-hours contracts, in accordance with the Fairness Commission’s principles.










The votes on the Motion were ordered to be recorded and were as follows:





For the Motion (76)


The Deputy Lord Mayor (Councillor Talib Hussain) and Councillors Julie Dore, Mike Drabble, Jack Scott, Simon Clement-Jones, Roy Munn, Richard Shaw, Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Chris Rosling-Josephs, Ian Saunders, Denise Fox, Bryan Lodge, Karen McGowan, Jayne Dunn, Stuart Wattam, Brian Webster, Jackie Drayton, Ibrar Hussain, Jillian Creasy, Robert Murphy, Sarah Jane Smalley Anne Murphy, Geoff Smith, Harry Harpham, Mary Lea, Joe Otten, Colin Ross, Martin Smith, Pauline Andrews, Steve Wilson, Joyce Wright, Penny Baker, Roger Davison, Diana Stimely, Chris Weldon, Sue Alston, Andrew Sangar, Cliff Woodcraft, Steve Jones, Cate McDonald, Tim Rippon, Ian Auckland, Steve Ayris, Denise Reaney, Bob Johnson, George Lindars-Hammond, Josie Paszek, Jenny Armstrong, Terry Fox, Pat Midgley, David Barker, Isobel Bowler, Tony Downing, Nasima Akther, Nikki Bond, Qurban Hussain, Lynn Rooney, Paul Wood, Peter Price, Sioned-Mair Richards, Leigh Bramall, Tony Damms, Gill Furniss, David Baker, Katie Condliffe and Vickie Priestley, Jack Clarkson Richard Crowther, Philip Wood, Olivia Blake, Ben Curran, Neale Gibson, John Booker, Adam Hurst and Ray Satur.






Against the Motion (0)








Abstained on the Motion (1)


The Lord Mayor (Councillor Peter Rippon).








(Note: Having both declared disclosable pecuniary interests in the above item, Councillors John Campbell and Mick Rooney left the meeting and took no part in the debate or vote thereon.)