Sheffield Lib Dems say Covid-19 council meetings should be open to public and press

Sheffield Council's coronavirus briefings should be opened up to the press and public, say the Liberal Democrats.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 2:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 3:37 pm

Councillors are receiving fortnightly briefings with officers, but currently there is no way for the press and public to ask questions and receive a direct response.

However, the opposition Liberal Democrats say, now central government has delegated a great deal of decision-making to a local level, the public and press need to be able to hold Sheffield leaders to account.

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Shaffaq Mohammed

In York, for example, the council leader and director of public health hold Facebook Live sessions which anyone can participate in.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem Leader, said: “I have been pushing for the press and public to be given access to the council.

"It’s a shambles that the press are only allowed 15 minutes with the council leader each week and the public have no opportunity to ask questions of the leadership and their handling of the Covid-19 response.”

The council says key messages are shared daily on its website, social media, email news bulletin and in press releases.

A spokesman said: "Weekly press conferences are held with our director of public health and council leader and our press office provides responses to media enquiries and facilitates interviews with cabinet members on a daily basis.

“Our director of public health has also produced a series of videos on our YouTube channel that answer frequently asked questions we have received online.

“In the community, weekly meetings are held with local response groups and Sheffield MPs are briefed weekly, allowing us to make sure updates are shared as widely as possible and providing the opportunity for any potential issues to be raised and addressed.

“It is our priority that everyone in Sheffield receives regular, accurate, up-to-date information and we will continue to utilise all of our channels to provide this.”

The council says public meetings are now being held via Zoom, including the next cabinet meeting on May 20 when the media and public can attend. Scrutiny meetings will be held following this.

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