At the public meeting of the Broomhill, Nether Edge and Central Area Panel, four Lib Dem councillors pushed through their proposal to reduce hours at Broomhill and Highfield libraries in favour of more street cleaning. This was against the “overwhelming view” of members of the public in attendance and the three Green councillors in Central ward who believe that Highfield Library is an essential resource in a ward where many people can’t afford books or computers. Deputy council leader David Baker defended his colleagues by saying, “by voting Lib Dem at the local elections (the majority of people) voted for extra graffiti removal and leaf clearance.” (Library opening hours cut sparks row, Sheffield Telegraph, 14th Nov).
Earlier in the same meeting Cllr Baker presented his vision for giving more
influence to local communities and more accountability to ward councillors.
He readily admitted that, despite the name, the new Community Assemblies are actually administrative areas chosen because their size is believed to be suitable for devolved service delivery. The public’s views about services would be solicited via a range of methods (e.g. questionnaires and web-based forums) as well as meetings.
Those attending this particular meeting included people active in Broomhill
Forum, Nether Edge Neighbourhood Group, Sharrow CAB, the Elders Congress, both Universities, an ex-councillor and an off duty council officer. The usual suspects, you might say, the vocal minority. But these are the very people, the “golden two percent”, who are willing to give up their time to
engage with, understand and invest in their communities. Their contacts,
local knowledge, ideas and activity are critical to the democratic process.
They are not simply passive consumers ticking boxes or voting on election
day for councillors to commission services for them. They are the enablers,
the providers, the very seed-corn for self sufficient, sustainable
communities. Community Assemblies will be the poorer for not listening to
Cllr Jillian Creasy,
Sheffield Green Party