DCSIMG

Regret over plans to axe Sheffield’s assemblies

Tough Decisions: Sheffield Council is imposing �50m of cuts in 2013/14

Tough Decisions: Sheffield Council is imposing �50m of cuts in 2013/14

SHEFFIELD Council has launched a consultation on plans to axe the city’s seven community assemblies to save £2 million a year.

The authority, which is making £50 million of cuts in 2013-14, plans to close the assemblies in September.

Assemblies currently act as ‘focal points’ for information and consultation about public services in each area and have limited budgets plus decision-making powers.

Each assembly is supported by representatives from the police, health services, voluntary groups and businesses.

A council spokeswoman said: “Funding cuts next year, together with increasing pressures, means the council has to save £50 million during 2013-14.

“We are doing what we can to protect services for people most in need, but cuts mean major reductions to services.”

Instead, the council plans to put £280,000 a year into a team of officers to support councillors in their wards and provide a £300,000 grant fund for individual wards, replacing

£1.6 million of grants handed out by assemblies.

Andy Shallice, shop steward for Unison at the council, voiced his disappointment at the plans.

He said: “Community assemblies are a crucial way in which councillors can be accountable to their electors, how they can hear the voices and views of groups, campaigns and individuals. Is it any wonder that as the coalition lays waste to public services, they also want to close down a route that allows people to influence the Town Hall?

Mick Ibbotson, of Southey, said: “At a time when the push for localism is at its highest, its ironic the ruling party would aim for re-centralisation of decision making.”

People can give their views before January 28 at www.sheffield.gov.uk/in-your-area/community-assemblies or calling 0114 2736751.

The Debate

For: Coun Andrew Sangar, Lib Dem Fulwood

Community assemblies are not perfect, but they represent the best attempt Sheffield has made in the past 30 years to empower local people.

Local people often thank me for the difference our community assembly has made in their area. These residents may never have attended a meeting but they appreciate the effect local decision making has had.

Whether it is new yellow lines or extra street-cleaning, residents recognise an issue has been addressed because the decision was made closer to them.

For example, our assembly was petitioned by residents who wanted to enforce tougher parking controls outside schools, following The Star’s It’s Your Child campaign.

Labour are determined to concentrate decisions in the Town Hall and impose a one-size-fits-all approach on all communities.

Against: Coun Gary Weatherall, Labour, E. Ecclesfield

The plans to end Community Assemblies are regrettable but a least-worst option in terms of making budget cuts.

When you start to make savings you have to prioritise funding for areas such as children’s and adults’ social services.

Closure of community assemblies is not an easy move and not something we wanted to do.

I’m devastated for the professionals working for the council within each area.

The assemblies have been extremely valuable, more so in terms of work within each area away from the formal meetings, engaging with young people and helping to organise activities.

It’s appalling that the cutbacks are affecting this work at the same time as the Government is promoting the so-called Big Society and Localism.

Stefan Lumb, age 31, Abbeydale

“I think the assemblies should be supported - it’s tough for people to get their views across as it is.”

Rebecca McVeigh, age 27, Jordanthorpe

“To us, our assembly makes no difference and has handed more money to other areas than ours.”

Kathleen Toolson, age 82

Chapeltown

“I wouldn’t miss our community assembly - decisions should be taken on a citywide basis.”

Lionel Jacobs, age 90, Gleadless

“I agree with the council’s plans. The money could be better spent on education and health services.”

 

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