This feedback on the Council, which lasted nearly 4 hours, are the edited highlights. If you want to watch
the full council meeting and look at the Agenda here is the link
A petition was presented by Sheffield TUC calling for Divestment by South Yorkshire Pension Fund from companies that support Israeli settlement on Palestinian land. Points were also made about Government attempts to interfere with the ability of Pension Funds to divest as they see fit.
There was an interesting question by Kate Stott asking SCC to put pressure on South Yorkshire Pension Authority to divest the £230million it invests in fossil fuels and also a call to invest it in local carbon free investments.
Kate said, “We ask Sheffield City Council to deliver on their climate emergency declaration by applying pressure on SYPA to disinvest their holdings in fossil fuel companies”
The response from Labour’s Cllr Julie Grocutt defended continued investment in fossil fuels saying it was a decision for fund managers what they invested in and they could not be directed to invest in local schemes. However, other organisations have funds that are fossil fuel free and are working to completely divest from fossil fuels.
There was a question about what the council was doing to address the Cost of Living crisis from a resident in Stradbroke who spoke passionately about the impact of rising prices on her community. Greens at the previous meeting successfully called for a Cost of Living Action Plan and this has now been produced and is now being acted upon.
Sam Wakeling asked a question regarding Councillor Fox’s inconsistency regarding dealing with the climate crisis and his support for expanding Doncaster-Sheffield Airport. Cllr Fox says “we have to take people with us” and defended Labour’s record but didn’t address the issue of support for airport expansion.It is fair to say that he decided to take offence at Sam Wakeling’s question rather than to address it.
Lib Dem leader, Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed, asked the Labour Leader Cllr Terry Fox about what he was doing to secure the future of Doncaster Airport? He responded saying he was doing all he can to save Doncaster Airport because it was about the economic regeneration of the area. There was no reference by either of them to the impact of air travel emissions on climate change.
Labour Cllr Tony Damms asked the council to send a letter to the Fire Authority thanking them for their work during the major incident declared during the heatwave. This was seconded by Green Councillor Paul Turpin, also a member of the Fire Authority, who made the links between high temperatures and accelerating Climate Change. The huge resources required to tackle moorland fires make climate change a significant risk factor for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.
Cllr Douglas Johnson asked Terry Fox if he had any recognition that the support for private car ownership and use from South Yorkshire councils has undermined public transport. Terry Fox responded by saying the Greens were against people parking outside their own homes. They aren’t and Cllr Fox later retracted this claim.
Cllr Turpin asked why Sheffield Renewables‘ free solar panel installations that they had offered were rejected by the Council. Cllr Terry Fox said he would ask the relevant committee to look into the matter. This is an ongoing frustration for the Green Group.
Cllr Turpin pointed out to Cllr Terry Fox that some Councils like Lewes DC alternate their Council Leaders every 6 months and asked if this could be considered for Sheffield. He didn’t get a positive response. Cllr Fox said that because Sheffield was a big city that this wasn’t viable without explaining why.
Motions – Public Transport, LGBTIQA+ rights and Electric Vehicles on the agenda.
No Green motions on this Agenda this time due to Council rules. The Green Group will next have a chance to submit a motion at the Council meeting in September.
The Lib Dems produced a motion on public transport on the possible 30% cuts to bus services in October and increased fares. Their motion had no credible proposals to address the problem. Cllr Douglas Johnson made the link between promotion by the Council of car ownership through cheaper parking and less patronage of public transport and it is not fair on those people who can’t afford a car. Cllr Bernard Little highlighted the point that there were no serious initiatives in the Lib Dem motion that would reduce fares or improve services.
Labour also brought a motion on bus services and crime which were weaved together with no links made between the 2 issues. Again there were no real suggestions about how we can improve things locally. Greens put an amendment to the 2 motions both promoting policies such as the Employers Workplace Parking Levy, which raises £9 million/year in Nottingham to support public transport and active travel, and also increasing parking charges to help fund alternatives to transport alternatives to the car. Cllr Tina Gilligan pointed out there are too many cars on the road, which have a negative impact on health and that we need well funded alternatives. Cllr Douglas Johnson said that the 2 motions by Labour and the Lib Dems in not providing solutions was just ‘hand wringing’.
As the allotted time for the meeting had elapsed, the motions on LGBTIQA+ rights and Electric vehicles were passed without debate. A Green amendment was passed that pointed out that Electric Vehicles were only an option for wealthier households and that they should not take precedence over investment in public transport and active travel. EVs still have particulate emissions associated with braking and issues like congestion and illegal parking would remain a concern whether vehicles are powered by electricity or fossil fuels.