This is what we learnt (or didn’t) at the 4th July 2018 Council meeting. The Green councillors asked questions about the use of injunctions, compromise on the street trees dispute, the disposal of heritage assets like the General Cemetery and Birley Spa Bath House, funding for community infrastructure and single-use plastics
The full text of the written questions and answers is available at http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/b21097/Members%20Questions%20Wednesday%2004-Jul-2018%2014.00%20Council.pdf?T=9. However, unlike public questions, there is no official record of the supplementary questions that councillors ask orally at the council meeting.
Use of injunctions
Councillor Douglas Johnson asked the Leader of the Council:
“You told the High Court you were “happy” and expressly approved the applications to commit four tree campaigners to prison. Are you still happy with spending Council money on legal proceedings to meet Amey’s duties under the Streets Ahead contract?”
Cllr Julie Dore answered:
“I answered a question on this matter to June Council. As you were present in the meeting you will be aware that the statement you have made is untrue.
“I respect the process that was followed that led to the decision to bring the cases against the four people last month. I think it is important that this process is respected. The Council is involved in many legal actions relating to a wide range of issues. It would be a very dangerous precedent to set for elected councillors to make decisions about bringing forward cases against individuals, and it is right that the decisions are made independently and objectively by professional officers.”
What Cllr Dore told the High Court was of course the opposite. As the court recorded in its judgment,
“it was because of the importance of democratic accountability in this case that I sought reassurance at the outset of the hearing of this application that the application was brought with the approval of democratically elected councillors including specifically the Leader of the Council. It may be, as Mr Yasser Vanderman for the council told me, that the decision whether to bring this application was constitutionally a decision for the council’s Legal Director to make. Nevertheless, I would have been uneasy in the circumstances of this case if an application was being made on behalf of the council to commit citizens of Sheffield to prison without the support of democratically elected councillors. In response to my enquiry, I was told that the application was supported by the Leader of the Council.”
Dialogue on tree-felling
Councillor Alison Teal asked:
“At Nether Edge trees meeting on 25th June, 2018, you stated that, during the summer, Amey and the Council were meeting to develop proposals for a ‘new way forward’ in approaching the trees dispute, and that when the plan is developed, it will be presented to residents and campaigners. Will you consider including the campaigners and other residents at each stage of the process, rather than handing down solutions that residents and campaigners will have had no input into?”
Councillor Lewis Dagnall (Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene) replied:
“As I have repeatedly said, there will be a dialogue with residents and stakeholder groups when we bring forward proposals. The Council has not yet received proposals from Amey.”
In answer to another question, Cllr Dagnall stated,
“With the conclusion of the recent court cases, we have been informed that there are no further historical cases of breach of injunction that the council intends to bring forward. We clearly hope that as a result of compromise from all sides further cases will not arise and ultimately the council will not have to rely upon the court injunction.”
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) spending
Councillor Martin Phipps asked:
“When is the Ward Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) policy to be implemented so that decisions can be made on spending the developers’ contributions that have accumulated since 2015?”
He received the answer from Councillor Jack Scott (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development):
“Following the statutory consultation we are required to undertake.”
Disposal of Heritage
Councillor Douglas Johnson asked Councillor Jack Scott
“Will the Council categorically rule out any plans to dispose of land (whether freehold or on a lease or licence) in the General Cemetery?”
The response was:
“I refer you to the comments I made at the last Council Meeting.”
In a supplementary question, it was pointed out that he had failed to rule out selling off part of the cemetery previously. He was asked for details of the plans, who the council planned to sell it to, when and for what purpose.
No details were provided.
Birley Spa Bath House
Councillor Douglas Johnson asked
“What plans are there for the future of Birley Spa Bath House? In particular, what plans are there to dispose of the land?”
Cllr Oliva Blake answered:
“The building is currently in a poor state of repair and is subject to vandalism, fly tipping and anti-social behaviour due to its isolated location. We would like to see the building back in use and we have been reviewing all the options and have held talks with some interested parties about the former bath house. We will continue to speak with people interested in this grade two listed building. We are currently reviewing options for future use of this building.”
As a follow-up question, she was asked whether the officer’s statement that “the building will shortly be marketed for sale” would be countermanded and the site taken off the market. She stated “no formal decision has been taken” but that “we will look at all options.”
Single use plastics
Councillor Douglas Johnson asked,
“What steps has the Council taken to reduce its own consumption of disposable plastics on Council premises?”
In response, Councillor Lewis Dagnall said:
“The Council is currently phasing out single-use plastic from its current catering provision and removing provision of single-use plastic in staff facilities, such as water fountains, to encourage people to choose a reusable option. Paper-based cups will be supplied where appropriate, such as in training facilities.
A pricing premium is also going to be introduced to encourage the movement away from single-use products to support the use of reusable cups.
Alternatives to plastic are also being considered by the Council’s catering concession partners, Argent. These include vegetable-based products for items like coffee cups, takeout food boxes and single-use cutlery. As many of these products are new supply is limited, but it is hoped they will be introduced later in the year.”