Mystery over council's emergency grant to Sheffield International Venues

The organisation which looks after Sheffield's major attractions received a council grant just days before announcing it was mothballing venues and considering redundancies.

Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 9:55 am
Andrew Snelling

The council used emergency powers to give £2.6m to Sheffield City Trust, also known as Sheffield International Venues.

The decision was made on June 29 - seven days before SIV announced it was ‘gauging interest’ in redundancies from staff.

At the time, Andrew Snelling, chief executive of Sheffield City Trust, said: “It is not a decision that has been taken lightly but venues that are generating no income will only need a much-reduced workforce to carry out essential maintenance while they are mothballed awaiting a change in circumstances.”

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It comes after SIV had a multi-million pound bailout by the council last October when officers said it was “hemorrhaging cash” and had problems managing and reporting its finances.

The council gave an emergency £1m in 2019; will subside SIV annually by £2.8m and also put another £3m towards health and safety costs and maintenance at facilities.

The latest grant was made using "covid decisions" which means it can't be scrutinised. The council was unavailable for comment.

A brief report says: "Sheffield City Trust requires urgent funding, by way of grant, to meet additional costs and lost revenue caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of facilities it operates.

"The financial support of a grant of £2.6m, being £0.5m due under existing arrangements plus a further £2.1m to be paid by July 2020, allows SCT to continue trading whilst the council continues the work to look at the priorities for the leisure provision in the city."

The Liberal Democrats said they still had not seen reports about SIV due last October.

Lib Dem Leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “The lack of openness has been a real issue for Sheffield Council.

"Since the lockdown in March I have been deeply concerned by the growing number of decisions being made using emergency powers that mean many decisions are now not subject to call-in by opposition councillors for scrutiny.

"This cannot continue, opposition councillors need the opportunity to scrutinise decisions to ensure that taxpayers money is being spent wisely.”