The people of Sheffield questioned council policy makers on subjects from housing and poverty to sport and the environment at the first Star Cabinet last night.
Each member of Sheffield Council’s decision-making group, along with chief executive John Mothersole, explained the authority’s strategy in a wide-ranging and largely productive - if occasionally confrontational - session.
Questions covered a wide range of topics; from business and transport, to heritage and the environment, and even indoor bowls. But councillors were happy to answer their constituents directly.
“An opportunity like this is very much appreciated, because it’s very valuable for us to engage,” said council leader Julie Dore.
A particularly wide-ranging question came from Peter Sephton, chairman of Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Action Group, who asked why the council wasn’t co-operating more with community organisations to tackle ongoing problems.
He spoke about street drinking, rough sleeping and begging, and the increasing number of off licences in West Street.
“Community groups are the eyes and ears of the community,” he said. “We are on the street all day long watching what’s going on.”
Coun Jayne Dunn, responsible for housing, said she would be happy to come along to the group’s next meeting. On begging and homelessness, she said a new community safety team had been set up, and added: “Compared to many core cities there are hardly any (rough sleepers) - but one is still too many.”
Tree felling was raised by Richard Ward, who asked Coun Bryan Lodge, responsible for the environment, to clarify why he said protesters were costing taxpayers ‘millions’ at last Friday’s budget meeting.
Coun Lodge said there was a clause in the contract that said any delay not caused by Streets Ahead partner Amey was the council’s responsibility.
He added: “Amey is not paid per tree. They are paid a fixed rate, and there are milestones they have to achieve.”
Questions from Shelley Cockayne and Ron Clayton covered heritage, from the Central Library to Castlegate.
Councillors promised announcements soon on the Old Town Hall, the University Arms and the Sheffield Castle site, under the old Castle Market.
Mike Hodson asked where pupils to fill the new Bannerdale School would come from, and Nathan Archer asked who would foot the bill if any dangerous gases were found in later years, as the site may be contaminated.
George Coiley asked about jobs in the climate sector and their role in Sheffield City Region, Andrew Oldfield questioned the council’s position on electrification of the Midland Mainline, and Stuart Wilson called on the council to provide a new building for indoor bowlers.
The meeting was broadcast live on The Star’s Facebook page, with several thousand viewers.
Check back later for a full report.