Bill for Sheffield Council meetings hits £30,000
Sheffield Council has assured taxpayers it did get best value for money after spending £30,000 on venues for council meetings.
After months of online meetings, the Government said in May that councillors had to start gathering face to face again.
But the Town Hall chamber is not big enough to accommodate 84 councillors plus officers with social distancing.
Full council meetings switched to Ponds Forge at a cost of £10,000 per meeting and the council has now racked up a bill of £30,000.
The council says it did consider Sheffield City Hall, Hallam University, SWFC, SUFC, St Mary’s Church, the Salvation Army, EIS Sheffield and the Quaker Meeting House but they were unsuitable.
It needed 1000m2 of space for 100 people with 2m social distancing and venues such as the City Hall could only accommodate 54.
The Showroom Cinema and hotels were automatically excluded as they did not have capacity.
Council chief says venues also need to be Covid secure, with audio visual equipment to support webcasts, be accessible and be available.
They say procurement opportunity was limited as it was based around the ability to deliver a Covid secure environment. Ponds Forge was able to meet the necessary time constraints and safety requirements.
The venue cost £5,992.00 plus VAT which included:
Hire of the sports hall, Skyline Suite and Meeting Room
Sports hall bleacher seating
Carpeting for the sports hall
Three black drapes for walls
Hire of tables, chairs and linen
Venue staffing to set-up and take down
Provision of 3phase power
Provision of hard wired internet
In addition it cost £3,800 for AV/cameras and stage hire and £650 for webcasting set up.
Council Leader Terry Fox said Ponds Forge was “without question” the most suitable venue, with availability and capacity, to meet all of the requirements.
“The Government’s change in legislation forcing us to hold council meetings in person has already unnecessarily cost the city thousands of pounds.
“We held many successful virtual public meetings throughout the pandemic, which was not only the safest option but also allowed easier access for everyone and cost far less.
“This would have been our preference going forward and we actively challenged the Government to reverse its decision.
“Due to the time constraints placed on us by these changes we had to act fast to establish a suitable venue, technical support and security, that met not only Covid regulations, but also public meeting requirements, our robust procurement processes, and the needs of our residents attending or watching online.
“Our priority has been to continue holding our meetings in the safest possible way, while retaining transparency and making sure we can move forward with decisions for the benefit of everyone in the city, and this has been crucial throughout the pandemic.
“We’ll continue to review meeting arrangements based on current circumstances and will look to return to council chambers once we are absolutely confident that the time is right.”