Week commencing Sunday 1st December
Sunday – canvassing in Sharrow: lots of households angry about price of parking permits, including visitor permits, which really hit the elderly and vulnerable. They don’t own cars themselves but rely on family visiting. 25p a throw doesn’t seem much, but there might be a couple of visits a day and it builds up over the week. (Back in the Town Hall, I continue to chip away at the figures – I’ve now been told the overall income from the parking schemes and the overall spend on parking services across the whole city. They balance each other out pretty well, but the latter figure refers to ALL services including non-permit parking, so those in the permit parking zones are subsidising the city-wide service). I cycled to the street where I was canvassing, of course, and the lock wouldn’t open when I returned. Some interesting advise and welcome offers of help from colleagues in Cyclesheffield about how to release it. My husband kindly sorted it out for me the following day, I won’t reveal how. But not a single passer-by challenged the “bike thief”.
Monday – gave an interview to a sixthformer from Darnall about my opinions on the bedroom tax. Turns out her dad lives in Central ward and is a writer of some renown who I have helped with his benefits, which was a nice little circle. Also gave a short interview to Radio Sheffield (Rony) about car-sharing. My story is that I have always cycled to my work as a GP but needed a car for days when I was on-call for urgent visits. During the time I worked at Page Hall Medical Centre, my car was stolen and I joined the Sheffield Car Club, which worked well. I loved driving a new, clean car – I’ve never owned one! I definitely sympathise with people who need a car for occasional use but firmly believe that we should use public transport or car-sharing for regular journeys (i.e. commuting). I’m so lucky I can cycle everywhere in my ward and to the Town Hall. The big meeting of the day was with officers from Amey and the council and a couple of local residents to talk about how to get the most out of the Streetsahead programme when it comes to Broomhall. The contract itself only includes “like for like”, i.e resurfacing roads and pavements, new street lamps, replacing trees. If a kerb is actually being replaced, Amey may include a dropped kerb at that point. But otherwise, anything new – dropped kerbs, build-outs, new signs, yellow lining, more trees etc etc have to be paid for by the council. There are tiny amounts in the “opportunities fund” and other bits and pieces (“enhancement funds” from the transport budget, 106 “planning gain money” in some areas, a separate fund for cycle improvements). It seems really important to me that these are used to best advantage and that local people have an input as they will know the routes used by people with push chairs, wheelchairs, electric buggies, bikes … or just walking. In Broomhall, we really want to improve the walking routes – Brunswick Street and Broomspring Lane – which are used by thousands of commuters to the hospitals and universities every day. If there were more trees and nicer street furniture it would make a huge difference to the lives of residents and passers-by.
Tuesday – Spent much of the day at my desk in the Town Hall, doing case work, setting up our next budget-briefing meeting, trying to get in touch with the organisers of a consultation on “NRQ2” (sounds dangerously as though the content has already been decided then!). Interleaved with phone calls to someone in the national Robin Hood Tax Campaign office. He had picked up a message on Twitter about our Green motion to Full Council, calling on the council to call on government to introduce a Financial Transaction Tax. He wanted to get some more local publicity and arranged for a local printer to make a placard, “Thanks for bringing Robin Home”. When we heard about Labour’s delete-all amendment, this had to be changed to “Let’s bring Robin home” as it was clear the motion wouldn’t get through. Many large Labour councils (Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle) have passed motions calling for a FTT, but Sheffield is obviously following the Ed Balls argument that it is just too risky to upset those fat cats in the City of London. Still wedded to the theory of trickle down wealth. In the evening, a meeting with student reps from Sheffield Hallam about a project to link with local residents on each street to improve recycling and litter-awareness in the area. Slow progress, but some good ideas and at least the links are being made.
Wednesday – Dentist, meeting with Jon Ashe, the chair of the local party to talk about the “Greener Future” plan, going through the order paper and amendments for Full Council with Rob, photo call for the Robin Hood Tax campaign (the main press didn’t show, but Eamonn took a photo and I was interviewed by a student journalist). Then the meeting itself. Petitions, including yet another “Save our Library” one, this time from Totley. And questions. Then time for debates on three motions. The usual embarrassing exchanges, Labour blaming the Lib Dems in the chamber for everything the Coalition government is doing. I wish they had more to say about how they intend to tackle the twin crises of environmental catastrophe and rampant inequality at local level. The first motion was actually about a local issue – the Lib Dems on transport; and we had a put an amendment to the second, Labour’s on national energy policy, calling on the council to make the city more energy-efficient. But Labour back benchers had obviously been primed to talk about poverty in their wards and relate it to the national economic situation… In amongst this, there were two misinformed accusations about our stance on the incinerator and I used a point of order to remind the council of our policy which is clear for all to see on our website. http://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2011/01/26/greens-object-to-importing-waste/
It transpired that the Cabinet member had been reading from a 2003 press release by Rabid – worth looking at, the pictures are a poignant trip down memory lane. http://www.grahamwroe.dsl.pipex.com/sic/news.html There were some even bigger campaigns, the failure of which had infinitely more far reaching, tragic consequences, of course.
Thursday – I had planned to take the day off to prepare for my medical appraisal, which is challenging in view of all my time off sick earlier in the year. But dipped out for a couple of hours in order to attend the consultation on the new New Retail Quarter. A group of consultants were giving their time pro bono to find out what the people of Sheffield should happen now that Hammersons have pulled out. I had encouraged Felicity Hoy of Common People to attend and she made good points about the need for independent retailers and pop-up shops (as opposed to national chains, including coffee shops, and betting shops). SCCRAG (Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group) were also there. I was literally the last to speak, after Leigh Bramall. Can the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) really be used to support a more resident- and local-business friendly city centre? With good walking and cycling routes to connect it to the immediate suburbs and other trading areas and green spaces and imaginative “meanwhile” uses (think the Citadel and the national Occupy conference)? Or must it be about selling “stuff” in a way that profits out-of-city corporations and their share-holders. That trickle-down theory again.
Friday – did some work on questions related to our budget amendment; and, in the evening, some Christmas-related cooking while listening to Any Questions (Jeanette Winterson good on inequalities when discussing the autumn statement – to me also, the debate about exactly how to pay off the debt is meaningless unless we talk about how to share our wealth, or lack of it) and a tribute to Nelson Mandela. I remember watching TV to see him walking out of prison in 1990; both my husband and our lodger worked in Africa during the apartheid era. I like the comments from Mark Steel circulated by our press officer http://marksteelinfo.com/tributes-have-flooded-in/