Following the election Peter Garbutt has now retired from the Council. He has served Nether Edge and Sharrow as Councillor for the last four years and has been an active member of the party for 17 years. In 2015 he stood for parliament in Sheffield Hallam. This is the earliest photo I can find of him, at the Sharrow Festival in 2013, with Cllr Rob Murphy and Eamonn Ward. Here is his election address from 2019. Peter was active in the tree dispute and the It’s Our City Campaign. He was a founding member of Sheffield Extinction Rebellion and his social media is an excellent source of information on the climate. He was often to be found carrying the Green Party banner at demos, speaking at rallies. and organising litter picks in the community. Peter worked in many fields but for most of his career, he was a teacher. I am sure you will all join with me in thanking Peter for his service to the party and the community of Nether Edge and Sharrow, and wish him a very happy and well-deserved retirement from the Council.
Peter writes about his experience on South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel.
“I sat for four years on the Police and Crime Panel. The purpose of this Panel is to hold the Police Commissioner to account for the way he holds the police to account. This was difficult to frame at first but became easier as time went on.
The Panel is made up of 12 councillors from across South Yorkshire – Sheffield has 4 – plus 3 Independent members.
It meets once a quarter for its official update meetings, but there are many others – notably the Public Accountability Boards, once a month. During the quarterly update meetings members are presented with a thick briefing paper with reports on Crime figures, police staffing, budgetary matters, etc. Each meeting lasts anything from two to three hours, usually held in Barnsley Council Chamber. We go through each report, with someone from the Commissioner’s office presenting, and members asking probing questions.
During my time, I tended to concentrate on three topics. The first was the high and mounting figures on domestic violence; it represents about one in six of all police cases. I tried – with limited success – to get the Commissioner’s Office to dig more deeply into the figures – how many were repeat call-outs, how many were female victims/male victims etc. That’s an ongoing piece of work that needs following up. The usual response from the Commissioner was that the rising figures were good, because it meant more people were coming forward rather than hiding it, but could offer no evidence of this. In my final meeting, I made this point; what if more people were reporting it because more people were suffering from it? I received no satisfactory response.
The second field I covered was the force’s record on discrimination, both within the force and as regards its relationship with the public. I was able to be satisfied by the rising numbers of female officers, at all levels, and their retention; but not of ethnic minority officers, a figure which remains stubbornly low, with a high leaving rate. The same is true of LGBTIQ officers. Where the relationship with the public was concerned, I concentrated mainly on the figures for Stop And Search, which sees disproportionately high numbers of Black and Asian people stopped. The Commissioner informs me they’re trying to get to the bottom of why that is, but they’ve been trying for four years… He also says communities want MORE stop and search!
The final point I concentrated on was how environmentally aware the Police were, and have been encouraged to see more EVs as police vehicles, more solar panels on Police Stations, etc. However, when I asked whether the Commissioner was satisfied with the Police’s plans to deal with the effects of Climate Change, I was met with a blank look. This, too, requires following up.
I dealt with several complaints regarding police behaviour at various events. When the main game shooting organisation gave demonstrations to various primary schools, the police partnered with them. I pointed out that shooting game is a contentious activity, which may give rise to political demonstrations, which the police would need to oversee; their endorsement of game shooting in this matter meant they would be unable to police it “without fear or favour”. I was gobsmacked to hear him say he hadn’t thought about it from that point of view.
Of all the committees I’ve sat on this is the one I could make my voice heard most usefully; a Green voice, the only one they’ve ever heard.