Sheffield Council fails to find suitable full council venue for third month
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The local authority's biggest meeting – where all 84 councillors, officers and members of the public gather and decisions are made on key issues – has had venue problems every month since the start of November as it refuses to use the Town Hall over concerns about Covid.
January’s full council meeting was due to take place on Wednesday 12, but it has been cancelled and replaced with an online briefing where Greg Fell, director of public health, will provide an update on Covid.
It follows a derailed December full council where Labour and Green councillors made a last-minute decision to not attend as the meeting was being held at a University of Sheffield building where staff were striking. The industrial action had been planned weeks in advance.
In November, full council was postponed because the authority failed to find an alternative venue to Ponds Forge – which it had been using since May – where university graduations were taking place. The university graduations had been booked there for at least half a year.
Why is the council not using the Town Hall for full council meetings?
The council has been saying it intends to return to the Town Hall for a while but there are no signs of this happening any time soon.
It held all meetings online throughout the height of Covid but the Government forced local authorities to return to in-person decision making last May.
The council said the Town Hall is not big enough to allow attendees to do social distancing so it has been using Ponds Forge and The Octagon as alternatives.
But the cost of this continues to run up. The total cost just for holding full council at Ponds Forge between May and September last year was £42,927.
Despite pleading from local authorities across the country, the Government has refused to allow online decision-making to return.
Sheffield Council was asked multiple times what – if any – its long-term plan was for full council going forwards.