Council Leader halts questions after allegations made against officers

A member of the public was barred from asking questions at a council meeting after making allegations against officers.

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 6:21 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 12:19 pm
Russell Johnson at the Cabinet meeting

Tree campaigner Russell Johnson was banned from asking further questions at the Cabinet meeting after Council Leader Julie Dore said his allegations could be defamatory.

Mr Johnson had compared Sheffield unfavourably to Liverpool and Newcastle and said: “I wonder if this is because of the unimaginative, arrogant and insular governance here in Sheffield which fails to listen to notably other parties and has a moribund cadre of officers almost certainly guilty of malfeasance in some cases associated with the Streets Ahead PFI.”

His comments prompted an angry response from Cabinet members. Coun Jackie Drayton said: “I have the impression you are accusing officers of the council of maladministration?

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“I had to sit and listen to you insult the Cabinet and officers of the council and more than that, accuse officers of some things you should not be allowed to say in this meeting. It is not appropriate to have that sort of question here.”

Coun Mazher Iqbal added: “If there is evidence to substantiate any of this bring it forward and let’s deal with it. Month after month this is a place for people to come and ask questions but it comes to a point where you start to attack our officers without any evidence, there must be a line drawn somewhere.”

Council Leader Julie Dore took advice from officers. “I want to know whether this is something that could be deemed to be defamatory.

“To make it very simple, everyone is entitled to their opinion but I am taking advice on the appropriateness of being able to come and accuse officers.

“You are out of order to come and accuse officers of being maleficent and therefore I am not taking any more until you go away and reflect on some of your comments.”

Mr Johnson protested and said: “What is my status as a member of the public and ratepayer? What is my situation with regard to further meetings?”

Coun Dore didn’t comment and moved on to the next agenda item.