It cost £10,000 for Sheffield Council to relocate a meeting from the Town Hall to Ponds Forge - and taxpayers are picking up the bill

It cost £10,000 for Sheffield Council to relocate a meeting from the Town Hall to Ponds Forge – and it’s likely there will be more bills in June and July.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 1:31 pm

Council meetings were taking place online during the pandemic but the Government says face to face meetings must now resume.

The problem is, the Town Hall chamber isn’t big enough for all 84 councillors plus officers to socially distance for the monthly full council meeting.

So the council had to find an alternative venue – with taxpayers picking up the bill.

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The meeting at Ponds Forge.

Full council in May took place at Ponds Forge at a cost of £10,000, which the council says covered venue hire, tech support and logistics.

And the council says it’s likely the monthly meetings in June and July will also have to take place there at a similar cost.

The Government needs to change legislation to allow virtual meetings to restart or to give councils the option of hybrid meetings.

Councillors from all political parties have criticised the Government for forcing face to face meetings to resume and for dragging its feet with the new legislation.

Liberal Democrat Leader Shaffaq Mohammed said: “It’s ludicrous, this is not only costing Sheffield Council but local authorities across the country.

“Virtual meetings have worked for the past year without any issues, the Government needs to fast track this change in legislation to allow hybrid meetings. We are not out of the woods yet with Covid and the new variants so we need virtual meetings.

“The people of Sheffield could find much better ways of spending £10,000 – imagine the play equipment that would buy.”

Labour councillor Sioned-Mair Richards said it was “unnecessary expenditure”.

“The Government could have allowed us to have the same system they have. If a hybrid system is good enough for Parliament, it’s good enough for us and better for the people of Sheffield.”

And Green Party Leader Douglas Johnson said: “The Government failed to extend the law which permitted councils to meet online and have made it impossible for councillors and staff to work from home.”