SMITH OF THE STAR: Couple who battle against injustice

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DON’T Mess with the Gleadalls. High-handed council officials, hidebound golf club committees and even rock superstars have all tried. And they’ve all ended up wishing they hadn’t.

Jean and Peter Gleadall, retired pub licensees, she a campaigner for council tenants’ rights, he a fighter for fair-play at Hillsborough Golf Club and both tireless charity workers, have been fighting perceived injustice for decades.

Pictured are Peter & Jean Gleadall at home

Pictured are Peter & Jean Gleadall at home

Now 78-year-old Jean has published a booklet called A David And Goliath Story outlining her nine-year battle with Sheffield City Council over her role in START, Sheffield Tenants and Residents Together, an association formed in 2000 to give the city’s council tenants a voice.

The aim of the detailed and passionate 20-page account of her battle with the council was to clear her name after allegations of misuse of council funds appeared in The Star in 2003. This was achieved, at least in part.

Jean has received a letter of aopology from Sheffield City Council chief executive John Mothersole and a letter of support from former city council housing chief Joanne Roney. But her burning sense of injustice will not let it go at that. Jean still wants to know where the money went and she still feels that START was ‘smeared’ by council officials.

Misuse of cash by START was never proven but Jean believes the allegation was the beginning of the end for START. In that story a figure of £250,000 was mentioned as being paid to START, a figure later revised to £266,000 that START was meant to receive over three years from 2000. The council’s figures tally with STARTS’s Co-operative Bank records for the period – with £70,000-plus deducted according to council figures for salaries, office rent and other fees.

Pictured are Peter & Jean Gleadall at home

Pictured are Peter & Jean Gleadall at home

But Jean Gleadall and others insist that START did not actually get the money from the council budget it was meant to.

Perhaps an incidental detail to many but not to Jean.

“We were supposed to get £110,000 a year for two years from the Council’s Housing Revenue account plus top-up payments, that was approved by the Council Cabinet,” said Jean of Wisewood.

“The money we got was in much smaller amounts and I believe that came from Government grants and other pots. In my opinion the money we were promised did not come from the budget it should have done.

“So what happened to the money we were supposed to get from the council budget?”

A council spokesperson said: “START was established in 2000 and activities were funded over a three-year period by the council to the total of £266k. Complaints were made by the former chair of the START board, regarding the council’s dealings with START and an internal audit was carried out in 2006.

“The final internal audit report states that ‘records show that over a three year period START was funded by the council to the total of £266,616.52. Internal audit consider this to be an accurate total.

‘For the funding of START the council collected tenants’ levy monies and added to it grant monies, the total of which was £266,616.52. The council then deducted office rental, salaries and sundry expenses to the total of £71,533.67, and made an actual total cash payment to START of £195,082.85.

“START’s own bank statements show that the £195,082.85 was paid over, and sufficient other financial information to show what it relates to.

“The council has worked with START over the years regarding our financial support for them and we are confident that the appropriate monies were paid as agreed. The council has already investigated these matters and considers this issue closed.”

Jean is not convinced.

“We had a good association working on behalf of tenants like they do in all big cities and I don’t think certain elements within the council liked it,” added Jean. “I think they wanted rid of us.”

That issue may never be resolved to her total satisfaction nor perhaps will Peter’s past beefs with Hillsborough Golf Club, but he has made a difference.

Peter, a past president of the club, backed banned member Roger Baker back in 2006 and fought for openness and transparency in the golf club’s affairs after a subsequent wrangle over a damning 2008 report into work done on the fourth and fifth holes at the course.

He was a lone and embattled figure for many months, was suspended, but survived and is still a member, though ill-health prevents him from playing these days.

“The club has newer officials that seem a bit more open. I think all that fuss had some effect,” said 75-year-old Peter.

So do they see similarities in their respective causes?

“We have both fought against the same thing,” said Jean.

“Little people who get a little bit of power and it goes to their heads. You have to stand up against that sort of thing, don’t you?”

You do if you’re a Gleadall.