Questions to be answered

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SHEFFIELD Council has some very serious questions it needs to answer about the way it handled the controversial ballot of 42,000 tenants.

It spent £400,000 on a consultation exercise with tenants ahead of a ballot asking them if they wanted to switch to a council-run service or remain with an arms-length management company - Sheffield Homes.

The way the consultation was conducted has already been open to scrutiny with allegations that phone calls to tenants were not exactly objective in their tone.

Now we can reveal that a report prepared ahead of the consultation exercise was kept confidential and not shared with the people who were being asked to cast their vote.

The council has tried to suppress publication of the report, refusing Freedom of Information requests for its release - eventually being forced to do so by the FOI Commissioner.

And now we know why. Within the report housing officers expressed concerns that under the council there may be a deterioration in the service they can offer, the savings may not be as great as the council believed and accommodating staff into the new structure could be problematic.

None of these facts was put before tenants whose decision has affected the livelihoods of people who have been made redundant as a result of the move.

It is not good enough for the council to argue that this report was an internal one. There were legitimate concerns it should have put before the tenants in an open and honest way - rather than to have tried to sweep it under the carpet and resist making it public.

This is not the behaviour we expect of our council and they need to explain themselves far better than they have done so far.

Council job cuts so hard to take

WE knew there were going to be cuts at Sheffield Council and today we learn just how severe they are.

Up to 600 jobs could go as the authority makes a further £50 million of savings.

Over the last two years, around 1,400 jobs have already been axed by an employer on which the city has relied.

Sheffield was encouraged to create jobs in the public sector by previous governments and is now being punished for successfully doing so.

The scale of the job cuts will have ramifications on the local economy as well, and comes at a time with job figures show the number of 16-24-year-olds out of work is soaring.

This recession is far from over.