Councillor Angela Argenzio

The process to achieve the budget proposal in front of us today has been tough but has shown that politicians from across the party political divides can work constructively together. We have achieved a remarkable degree of agreement. Necessity has truly been the mother of consensus rather than invention. I would like to thank colleagues from all party groups who have approached this process with a sense of responsibility and goodwill.

The things Greens propose today are the sort of things that we are going to all need to do in the future, if we are to achieve a society that is sustainable both ecologically and economically. It is not just the innovation of technology that will be needed to take us forward but the innovation of ideas. Being bold, learning from others and being the pioneers when we need to be. This will be necessary if we are going to face up to the challenges that the coming years will bring.

The Green Party amendment seeks to start the Council on a path to transform itself and the city we serve. Our proposal to establish a wholly owned Council company providing households with the services they often can’t get but really need is not our own. It is based on a successful model operated by Oxford City Council (1). We would want to use that model but adapt it to the priorities we have in Sheffield. So providing services like gardening, heating maintenance and replacement, installation of insulation and retrofitting of homes, provision of solar panels. This will not only enable us to generate income for the Council but help us begin the path of helping people save money on their fuel bills and decarbonise the city, while providing a revenue stream for the Council.

I am acutely aware of the national crisis in the care sector, poor wages and working conditions and the difficulties in recruitment and retention of staff. This will not be solved overnight but we want to make an important start. That is why we are calling for the development of Community Care Cooperatives which removes the profit motive, properly rewards staff with at least the living wage and provides care at a community level where staff and those needing care are all in the same place. This has been successful in Italy where there are 15,000 social cooperatives that care for 7.2 million Italians (12% of the population) and employ 480,000 people (2). In the UK there are examples of Community Care Coops but it is a model that needs support and development to get off the ground. That is what we are proposing to pioneer here in Sheffield.

Rising prices are causing misery to millions and we need to address this by reducing the need for energy by improving homes and generating more of our energy locally. We are proposing to help people to release the capital they have locked up in their homes to enable them to install solar panels with no upfront costs. This will enable them to get the benefit of energy savings immediately. Once the financial model is established we will use it to help people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes through a deep retrofit with high energy efficiency and heat recovery ventilation standards.

We currently pay £40,000 a year to an energy company to say our electricity is from green sources. Those ‘green’ sources could include nuclear or biomass, both of which come with their own problems and dubious credentials. We want to use that money to help us generate more renewable energy in Sheffield to help us reduce the energy bills, not pay for a badge which brings us no benefit. That is why we want to use those funds to train the next generation of renewable energy engineers working here in Sheffield. They could well be the same people who would work on the construction of the large solar farms we propose on places like local park and ride schemes. Generating energy while providing shade and power to electric vehicles. Or they could be installing solar panels or other renewable technologies on schools giving young people a practical demonstration of the power of green ideas, while saving the school money at a time of stretched school budgets.

New technologies offer real promise and that is why we are asking for a significant trial of graphene heating for homes (3). Sometimes referred to as ‘electric wallpaper’ this form of heating operates on a wider surface area, usually a ceiling, and so is able to operate effectively at a lower temperature. Coupled with solar panels and battery technology there is the real prospect that homes could be heated both affordably and with low emissions. We want Sheffield to be at the forefront of this revolution.

We will make it easier for people to get about in Sheffield. This is why we want more parking enforcement to ensure our pavements are free of cars blocking the way for pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and parents with pushchairs. Children need to be able to get to school safely and we will be supporting the further development of the School Streets initiative. We want cyclists to know that their bikes will have secure parking so we will be investing in secure cycle storage in residential areas. We will make it easier and cheaper for people to get into the City Centre and to help that we are proposing free tram and bus travel on the 4 weekends leading up to Christmas. Public Transport needs to be the cheapest option as well as the low carbon option. All these initiatives and more could be supported if the Council adopted an Employers Workplace Parking Levy (4). In Nottingham over £9 million/year is generated that helps support public transport, active travel initiatives and electric vehicle charging. This frees up Council funding to enable the support of other hard pressed services such as Adult Health and Social Care for instance.

We are clear that local priorities are best addressed closest to the communities that Councillors serve. That is why we are calling for the ward pots to be increased to allow better targeting of funding to address the issues that people care about where they live. We also need to ensure that we help people in the direst need the most. This is why we have championed the increase in hardship funding and a further £200,000 for the Advice Services that people rely on.

We work best as a Council when we work together. This is our first year using the committee system in the context of No Overall Control. We have shown that while having different political philosophies that we can come together, in the hardest of times, for the benefit of the city.

Please support our amendment


(1) About Oxford Direct Services
(2) Italian social cooperatives celebrate their 30th anniversary
(3) Is new ‘electric wallpaper’ the green future of heating?
(4) Nottinghams Employers Workplace Parking Levy