Sheffield councillors’ interests under scrutiny - with union membership, links to MPs and free gifts revealed

Barry Hawkins (left) and Ronnie O'Sullivan study the table. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
Barry Hawkins (left) and Ronnie O'Sullivan study the table. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
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Up-to-date details of Sheffield councillors’ interests have been published and today The Star sheds some light on the vast array of documents.

Details currently included on the register show building maintenance firm Kier, construction company Keepmoat and Capita, which collects council tax and administers benefits for the council, offered gifts to councillors.

All three firms hold multi-million pound contracts with the council.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for housing Coun Harry Harpham was a guest of Kier at the Sheffield Business Awards dinner in 2012 and accepted an invitation to the 2013 Cue Ball – the traditional launch event for World Snooker – as a guest of Keepmoat.

The Cue Ball invitation included overnight accommodation, although the event is held in Sheffield.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, a member of the cabinet when the Lib Dems were in control of the council from 2008 to 2011, accepted a ticket to the United-Wednesday derby match in September 2009 as a guest of Capita.

Coun Harpham, who represents Darnall, said: “We spend an awful lot of money with Keepmoat and Kier. I was asked to go along as their guest to help cement the partnership between our organisations.”

Kier has just been named preferred bidder to continue its housing maintenance contract with the council for another three years, while Keepmoat is part of the council’s Sheffield Housing Company consortium to build more than 2,000 new affordable homes.

Coun Mohammed, a Broomhill councillor, said: “I went to the football match in 2009 in the absence of our then leader, Coun Paul Scriven, who was unable to attend.

“Capita had already signed their contract with the council at this time.”

The register of interests shows that Labour cabinet members and members of the opposition Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet accepted invitations to dinners and free sporting and cultural events.

Gifts have included tickets to Sheffield United and Wednesday football matches, World Snooker and to see stars such as Tina Turner at Sheffield Arena.

The Lib Dem leader, a youth worker with Sheffield Futures, accepted that councillors, including on his own side, need to ‘carefully consider’ what gifts are taken.

Coun Mohammed also registered hospitality including tickets to a Sheffield Wednesday match in 2010 as a guest of power company E.On, a free ticket to a Sheffield United match where he was accompanying young people performing a song, and tickets to World Snooker Finals 2012 and 2013.

Coun Mohammed said: “Quite often we are invited to events to represent the city at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Coun Colin Ross, Lib Dem deputy leader, who represents Dore and Totley, registered the largest number of gifts out of any cabinet or shadow cabinet member.

He said: “I attended a number of events to represent the council when I held the post covering enterprise in cabinet.

“It was in some cases to present or receive awards on behalf of the council. It was expected that the council would support these events and none of them were with organisations who were seeking to gain business with the council.”

The register of interests also shows close links between the ruling Labour group and trade unions and shows Deputy Leader Coun Harry Harpham is a full-time worker for Brightside and Hillsborough MP David Blunkett.

Opposition councillors say trade union membership is an issue because of the council having to deal impartially with unions on issues such as job losses and reduction of the council’s £500,000 annual bill for full time union officers.

Coun Harpham said his employment by Mr Blunkett as a researcher ‘has nothing to do with my status at the council’ – and that the MP has no say on council policy.

All cabinet members except Coun Mary Lea, who looks after adult social services, and Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children’s services, are either members of, or receive funding from, trade unions.

But Unite-sponsored Coun Harpham said: “It does not affect our ability to negotiate with the unions – in fact, it can be a great help and I am proud to be a member of a trade union.”

Coun Mohammed said: “I am concerned about the number of trade union members in the Labour cabinet when there is controversy at the cost of full-time union officials on the council payroll.

“There are also occasions when, as councillors, we have to be careful about what hospitality we accept if we are to be impartial when dealing with other agencies.”

Coun Harpham said he did not wish to comment on other councillors’ acceptance of hospitality.

A Capita spokeswoman said: “Capita abides with, and works to, procurement rules and legislation and acts with the highest levels of integrity.

“This hospitality, which occurred nine months after a contract was signed, was declared by the participant at the time.”

Kier said it did not wish to comment but said that Coun Harpham had been invited as a guest because the firm had been nominated for an award.

Visit http://councillors.sheffield.gov.uk/councillors/register-of-councillors-interests to view your Sheffield councillor’s details from the authority’s register of interests.

Entries on register of interests

Labour:

Coun Julie Dore, leader: no outside job; partner is an engineer; receives sponsorship from Labour and the Unite union. No registered gifts or hospitality.

Coun Harry Harpham, deputy leader: Researcher for David Blunkett MP; partner is a medical records co-ordinator for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust; sponsorship of £50 from Unite and £50 from spouse towards 2010 election costs. Member of Unite. Registered hospitality – guest of Kier at Sheffield Business Awards, January 2012; ringside seats to boxing match provided by Sheffield International Venues, July 2012; Guest of Keepmoat at Cue Ball – the launch event for World Snooker – including overnight accommodation, April 2013.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities: No outside job; no sponsorship or donations; member of the GMB Union; no hospitality or gifts.

Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for adult social services: Works as a nurse in Nottingham; receives election expenses from Darnall Labour Party. A member of Amy’s House charity and Darnall Trust Fund. No hospitality or gifts.

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member environment: Enterprise and Development Consultant for Voluntary Action Sheffield; election expenses from Arbourthorne Labour Party; member of Unison, Tiddlywinks Nursery, a director of the national Foundation for Social Inclusion and national director of Citzens’ Advice UK. No gifts or hospitality.

Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture: no outside job; husband is solicitor at DLA Piper; received election funding from GMB union. Hospitality and gifts – Passes for Doc:Fest 2012 and 2013; tickets to World Snooker final May 2013; entry to opening night at Buxton Opera Festival, June 2013; Hallam University Enterprise Awards dinner, September 2013; guest of CrossCountry trains, return jouney to York accompanying Sheffield Paralympic Flame Ambassador.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development: no outside job; partner is manager for Kraft. Member of Unite union, Parson Cross Community Forum, Foxhill Parson Cross Advice Service. No sponsorship. Hospitality and gifts – dinner at Hui Wei as part of Children’s Media Conference, guest of DLA Piper; Sheffield Diving Club dinner; Sheffield Chamber of Commerce President’s Dinner. All three July 2012.

Coun Ben Curran, cabinet member for finance: Legal Advisor, Thompsons Solicitors; partner is a staff nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and teaches Irish dancing; sponsorship received from Walkley and Sheffield Liberal Democrats when standing for election as a Lib Dem before changing parties. Member of the GMB union, Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, Sheffield Theatres, Upperthorpe Healthy Living Centre, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Ben’s Centre for Vulnerable Children. No hospitality or gifts.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children’s services: no outside job; partner is a manager at Southey Owlerton Area Regeneration; sponsorship from Burngreave Labour Party; Member of Lyceum Theatre Trust, Sheffield University Technical College, JG Graves Trust, Sheffield College, South Yorkshire Community Foundation, Burngreave Community Action, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Co-op, Fawcett Society, National Trust, Royal Horticultural Society, Wateraid. Hospitality and gifts: two tickets to see Hamlet at The Crucible, September 2010; guest at Southey Owlerton Area Regeneration awards dinner at Cutlers Hall, November 2011; ticket to 125th anniversary dinner of Sheffield Construction Company as guest of Henry Boot; guest at two Hallam University Honorary Doctorates meals in November 2011 and at Hallam University’s Leading Ladies lecture in January 2012.

Liberal Democrats:

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader: youth worker for Sheffield Futures, no sponsorship. Hospitality and gifts: Tickets Sheffield United vs Wednesday 2009 as guest of Capita; tickets to Sheffield Wednesday as guest of E.On, January 2010; ticket to Sheffield United match accompanying children performing a song, April 2010; tickets to World Snooker Final 2012 and 2013.

Coun Colin Ross, deputy leader: no outside job; no sponsorship; shares in Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Shell; governor at Dore Primary School; member of National Trust, Dore Village Society, Bradway Action Group, Earth Science Teachers Association. Hospitality and gifts: Tickets to dinners as guest of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, South Yorkshire Sports Partnership, Park and Spring Academies, Islamic Society of Britain, Inside Magazine, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Master Cutler, Chinese community; tickets to Crucible Theatre, World Snooker, Rotherham Titans rugby club, Strictly Come Dancing, Sports Personality of the Year, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield Steelers, UK Athletics Championships, England Under 21 football match as guest of the Football Association. Trip to Chengdu, China, and hospitality on visit to boost trade links.

Coun Roger Davison, shadow cabinet member adult social care: no outside job; wife works as information manager for the NHS; receives election expenses from Lib Dems. Member of the Urban Commission and Ecclesall Trust. Hospitality and gifts: Status Quo and Tina Turner concert tickets in 2007/8 from Sheffield International Venues; ornamental masks and medals by visiting Chinese delegation in 2010, dinners hosted by Sheffield Hallam University and to mark Hallam FC’s 150th anniversary, and a ticket to see Hamlet at The Crucible Theatre.

Coun David Baker, shadow cabinet member for communities: no outside job; receives Liberal Democrat sponsorship; member of Britannia Freemasons Lodge. Hospitality and gifts: painting of a panda from Chinese delegation November 2009; theatre tickets September 2010.

Coun Penny Baker, shadow cabinet member for housing: no outside job; no sponsorship; no gifts or hospitality.

Coun Joe Otten, shadow cabinet member for environment: works as a self-employed software developer; partner is a GP; sponsorship from Sheffield Hallam and Dore and Totley Liberal Democrats; governor at Bradway Primary School; member of Electoral Reform Society; no gifts or hospitality.

Coun Alison Brelsford, shadow cabinet member culture: management support worker for Toolsteel, Tinsley; partner is a technical support worker for Aviva; no sponsorship; member of Stocksbridge Town Council and Steel Valley Project; no gifts or hospitality.

Coun Ian Auckland, shadow cabinet member for business: no outside job; sponsored by the Liberal Democrats; governor of Norton Free Primary School; member of Groundwork, Sheffield Clean Air Partnership, Sheaf Citizens Advice Bureau, National Trust, English Heritage, RSPB; hospitality and gifts: Dinner invites from Sheffield Hallam University, Hammerson and Eat Sheffield; tickets to Crucible; book from First South Yorkshire.

Coun Andrew Sangar, shadow cabinet member for finance: no outside job; wife is a midwife for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals; sponsored by Fulwood and Hallam Liberal Democrats; member of Campaign to Protect Rural England; hospitality and gifts: train tickets to London in 2008 representing a health body’s bid for Government funding; dinner invitations from the United Learning Trust, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Secondary Heads Conference, Irwin Mitchell; tickets from Sheffield Theatres; entry to After Dark in 2010 and 2011, family invited courtesy of Irwin Mitchell via one of his daughter’s friends.