Sheffield Council chiefs faced readers of The Star to answer questions about key issues facing the city at an important meeting.
The Star Cabinet event happened tonight in the Winter Garden, attracting residents keen to quiz the city’s top councillors. It was the second meeting of its kind to take place in partnership with the council, and was attended by nine members of the authority’s cabinet committee, including its chair Coun Julie Dore, the council’s leader.
The debate touched on a broad range of subjects, each directed at the relevant senior councillor, whose remits extend from finance, planning and culture to health and schools.
Cycling, HS2, adult social care, education, heritage and - inevitably - trees were all on the agenda, and pledges were made to sharpen the council’s focus on several areas, such as improving the state of local buses and reducing litter.
Jason Colbeck, of Cycle Sheffield, asked Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and sustainability, whether the city planned to build protected infrastructure for cyclists along main roads to hit ambitious targets on bike journeys. Jason was told to expect ‘big announcements’ on cycling, and that Sheffield needed to be ‘encouraging a culture where we share the space available’.
The meeting sparked a passionate exchange of views when Coun Scott was called to explain the council’s reasoning behind rejecting a high speed rail station at Meadowhall.
“We have to take a view based on evidence, fact and science about where we get the greatest bang for our buck,” said Coun Scott, who argued city centre stations promised ‘extra growth’.
Coun Dore stated firmly: “I’m still convinced the HS2 station needs to be in the city centre.”
The council leader was asked by Lee Keyhoop whether, in the wake of the ‘appalling’ felling of street trees in the city, the authority would ‘ensure Sheffield’s assets are protected’ when signing contracts for future works.
“We’re determined to get that right,” replied Coun Dore. “Why wouldn’t we?”
And Louise Watt asked Coun Dore an all-embracing question expressing fears local government had been badly eroded. “The problem in this country is local government has very few powers and less funding,” the leader said. “We’re the most centralised country.”
The meeting was streamed online as a live video. The footage can be watched again by visiting The Star’s Facebook page.
See Friday's edition for more on Star Cabinet.