About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sheffield City Council Cabinet Meeting 14th February 2018

My questions to Cabinet this month were a bit unusual in a number of ways. Some are relatively straightforward but are a part of a longer term considered inquiry and one was delivered on the day instead of in advance as is my usual practice.

In a similarly unusual move some of the questions were either answered or written answers were offered before the meeting. In view of what came later, this was useful.

So: Question 1, on numbers of staff and budgets for Communications as against Democratic Services, I will be receiving a written answer.

Question 2, on capacity and number of students enrolled in the City's two University Technical Colleges, I will be receiving a written answer.

Question 3, on progress on my Conduct Complaint against a Councillor, I was updated verbally before the meeting and have since received a written answer. Apparently we are awaiting the arranging of a 'Consideration Sub-Committee' and have been since before Christmas. I wonder what will happen if this is not arranged before the AGM when everyone plays musical chairs in the committees?

Question 4, on the recent report by the Communities & Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into Overview & Scrutiny Functions in Local Government, was answered by Cllr Julie Dore (Leader). She commented that she would expect the Council's own Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee to consider the report as part of it's work programme. It would also look at all the recommendations of the report even though I had highlighted only certain parts.

That is fine by me, I had at this stage highlighted areas I know SCC don't do currently in the hope of stimulating a debate on the effectiveness of scrutiny in the city. To that extent I am content … for now.

My final question of the meeting was submitted at short notice and therefore I expected little by way of an answer but it was to serve notice that a disagreement may be at hand. In my Question 5 I asked about a decision announced (in private to the Sheffield Star only) that day about Mount Pleasant House being sold to a company to make into a Care Home.

There had been, in the previous week, reasons to believe that the decision may have been based on 'mistaken' or missing information in the reports received by Cabinet Members. I therefore asked that the decision be referred to Scrutiny to ensure “...that a complete understanding of the decision can be achieved and that it is based on a full understanding of the impact of this decision on another gem of Sheffield's heritage before it is lost to the local community forever.”

I also asked for a number of bits of information about the stage of the negotiations with the successful bidder.

The initial response was from Julie Dore, who commented that there is a protocol for contract decisions and it is not possible to comment on confidential or commercially sensitive information. There was no comment about referring the decision to Scrutiny.

Cllr Olivia Blake (Cabinet Member for Finance) then confirmed the offer of a meeting for the following morning as she thought an early meeting with herself, Cllr Ben Curran (Cabinet Member for Planning and Development) and Cllr Mazher Iqbal (Cabinet Member for Business and Investment) would be useful to look at other locations to develop some of the proposals in the Mount Pleasant bid.

I suspect this story will run and run, whilst another unique gem of Sheffield's heritage is under threat.

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Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Meeting 29th January 2018

The agenda for the meeting was all business and this suggested to me a timescale within the half hour. Not unusual for this increasingly pointless bit of theatre.

Before the meeting however, I was seated in the waiting area chatting with Nigel Brewster, Vice Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership (the business end of the City Region) and a partner in the Brewster Pratap Recruitment Consultancy.

We were both bemoaning the pretence of the 'public' meeting and he expressed a concern that it made the Sheffield City Region political membership look like they either don't care or that all the decisions had already been made and this was nothing more than the public facing, so called, engagement. I agreed with this comment and that the meeting behind closed doors that takes place before the 'public' meeting was where any disagreements would be aired. For me this means that the Combined Authority are not serious about public engagement and indeed are trying to work around the 'problem' of people wanting to know what is going on.

I highlighted the fact that despite the turmoil around the devolution project in general and then the collapse of Carillion, neither of these items had made it to the agenda. Having to put questions to the meeting seven days in advance means that unexpected issues cannot be brought up for some seven weeks or more. Hardly a responsive or flexible public engagement strategy.

We were then called into the 'public' meeting. The chair was taken, for the first time officially, by Cllr Chris Read Leader of Rotherham elected last meeting to replace Barnsley's Cllr Steve Houghton. All the nine leaders appeared to be in place and the meeting began, once a missing Secretariat minute taker was back from his comfort break.

Items 1 to 6 on the agenda went past a brisk pace, they generally do being about voting rights, declarations of interest and exclusion of press & public items. Item 7 held a minor positive for active citizenry. In his brief time in the pre meeting mingling Nigel Brewster had clearly brought some of my comments to the attention of Cllr Julie Dore (Sheffield Leader) and, during this item on questions by members, she butted in before it was glossed over to ask a question, on my behalf about the impact of Carillion's collapse on the City Region. There was a bit of a stumble but, interestingly one of the Officers was able to respond that, fortunately, there were no outstanding contracts with Carillion within the City Region's remit. My thanks to both Nigel Brewster and Julie Dore for this helpful approach.

Beyond that the rest of the items on the agenda galloped by with a handful of approvals to previously prepared reports and the meeting closed after just 15 minutes.

Again the meeting came across as a piece of theatre and the lack of discussion or comment about the content of the reports being presented reinforces the appearance of a bureaucratic machine rather than a collaborative public authority. The unexpected response to the question at item 7 was illuminating, suggesting they can deal with questions at little or no notice if they wish to.

Next meeting is the 12th March 2018.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

An Odd Week in Politics.

It's been an odd week. Organising and preparing has been the core of what I've been up to and of course the ever present distraction of social media mayhem amongst public & politicians.

As many will know I have launched a fundraising drive to try and secure some income to enable me to continue the work I undertake to push transparency and further accountability in local corridors of power. There is much needs to be done and, although I have had some truly generous subscriptions started and some one off donations I was not expecting, it is not enough to keep the wolf from the door yet. So, please continue to like and share my donations page, set up a subscription if you can afford to and I'll keep you updated on progress.

In the interests of my own transparency I will be setting up a page to thank my supporters but, recognising not everyone will want their name made public in this context, let me know if you prefer privacy. On that page I will also show the current total tally for the subscriptions and donations I receive.

In other news, look out for details of an upcoming course for the Workers Education Alliance, about the issues leading up to the expected Mayoral Election in May and looking at how and why devolution has become such a complex issue. I'll be delivering the course with Vicky Seddon, co-ordinator of Sheffield for Democracy and I will post details as they are available.

This will coincide with the process of the Labour Party choosing their candidate for the election and, no doubt, other parties declaring their positions on the Mayoral Election. It is a timely reminder as we are consistently seeing the electorate struggling with the concept of the Regional Mayor and confusing the role as one that has power over the City of Sheffield, which it does not.

The current list of potential candidates for the Labour Mayoral candidacy is in and, not wishing to be party political I will simply say they are unsurprisingly Male, Stale & Pale. All are career politicians and unlikely to rock the boat.

I'm also continuing to put together some plans for creating more active citizens and helping 3rd sector organisations be better at their public engagement and their engagement with our political and other institutions. This means more meetings this week with at least some of those groups that may benefit.

Looking forward, tomorrow brings the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority meeting. You might imagine, that with so much comment in press and by numerous politicians about the issue of devolution in South Yorkshire and indeed the whole of Yorkshire, there would be an update planned for the agenda. There is not, it's all business.

This does not, unfortunately, surprise me the SCRCA have, at least in their formal meetings, been tight lipped and unforthcoming with information. There will undoubtedly be comment in the private meeting beforehand but nothing to ruffle the feathers will be included in the 'public' meeting. I will however be there to see what might be gleaned behind the scenes.

The fallout around PFI deals is continuing. There is no apparent news about the 250 Carillion jobs in Sheffield but Sheffield celebrated the new flood protection scheme in the Lower Don Valley, completed by Carillion before they went bust, without any mention of the contractor.

The Amey/Streets Ahead PFI continues to make news, between the first MP to visit the scene of a felling protest calling for a halt to the 'unsustainable' programme, to a curious story of allegedly poison tea. All set against continuing violence on the streets and a refusal of the Council's Cabinet to condemn that violence.

As I said, an odd week. Look out for a potentially short report on the SCRCA meeting later in the week and more detail on the WEA devolution course.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Sheffield City Council Cabinet Meeting 17th January 2018

Cabinet Meetings are an opportunity to see the real power brokers in the city, the Council Cabinet making decisions. It is also an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions of those same decision makers.

This particular meeting was a bit of a sparse affair, with three Cabinet Members and the City's Chief Executive missing. Cllr Julie Dore (Leader), Cllr Jackie Drayton (Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Families), Cllr Bryan Lodge (Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene). There was no explanation for their absences, there rarely is.

That did mean that my questions 4 & 5 would not get an answer as they would normally be referred to Cllr Lodge. I did have a vague hope that Cllr Olivia Blake (Cabinet Member for Finance) who was chairing the meeting in her role as Deputy Leader may have some comment on the financial enquiries in question 5 but it was not to be.

Below are the questions I asked at this meeting and the responses I received, with some editorial comment from me along the way.

Question 1

Why did the city miss the opportunity to bid for money to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the women's suffrage movement?

We were one of 16 candidates invited to apply for a share of a £1.2M pot but chose not to apply, was any consideration given to this opportunity or any discussion had with heritage groups in the city to assist in a possible bid?

I supported this question with copies of correspondence between Louise Haigh MP (Sheffield Heeley) and the Government Equalities Office.

The question was answered by Cllr Mary Lea (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure). She commented that the Council had been unable to find any evidence of a letter inviting them to bid for the grant pot but they would continue to look. She agreed it was unfortunate that the opportunity was missed. Pointed out that there was a plaques to the Suffragette movement on Marlborough Road and a new one was to be placed this year on Chapel Walk. She also commented on all the things the city did to celebrate Sheffield women, including the recent 'Women of Steel' statue. There was also comment on the exhibition about protest in the Millennium Gallery organised by the Museums Trust. (anyone might think she had seen my Q7)

Finally she mentioned the smaller grants now available to community groups and encouraged any groups interested to bid for funds to celebrate the centenary

Question 2

Living just off London Road I have completed the survey into the possibility of selective licensing for the area. Has Council given any thought to a city wide licensing scheme for private landlords?

It would seem this would have the benefit of ensuring all landlords are working to the same minimum standards and would not impinge on the businesses of decent landlords. It would also have the benefit that costs of licenses could be reduced, making more landlords able to afford any needed improvements whilst not unfairly impacting on those who already meet eh minimum standards?

This was answered by Cllr Jayne Dunn (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety) who responded that the limits on selective licensing were set by central government at 20% of geography or of the city's private rental stock. Council therefore concentrated on identifying the most at risk areas of the city to tackle with these powers. (this might be a matter for the local renters campaign Acorn to take up at a national level as well as locally, though I may follow up to see whether any work arounds are available)

Question 3

When I first planned this question it was to ask whether the Council had made any contingencies for the potential collapse of Carrilion. Circumstances have overtaken that and now my question is what exposure does the city have in respect of this major outsourcing company collapsing?

What impact will this have on the Tram / Train project? The Lower Don Valley flood defence project? And the 250 jobs at the Carillion Call Centre in the City?

In addition is the Council aware of how many local companies may be impacted as part of the 30,000 small businesses owed money by the company?

This was answered first by Cllr Olivia Blake. She was able to clarify that all Carrilion contracts with the city were complete, including the flood defence work. She had no knowledge how the Call Centre might be affected but that they were keeping an eye out for any local businesses that may be impacted by the collapse.

Cllr Jack Scott (Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability) answered the part about the Tram/Train project. He stated that the Council's part of this project was complete and the remaining Carillion contract was with Network Rail. Work appeared to be continuing and Network Rail and the Department for Transport were in negotiations over the impact of the collapse.

Questions 4 & 5

As I stated before these would have been referred to Cllr Bryan Lodge who was absent. I will therefore update on these if I ever get the promised written response.

Before moving on to the final two questions I would like to proffer an observation. It was at this point in the meeting that the Councillors present moved into professional politician mode. They appeared to shrug off their humanity in favour of party unity. No doubt they justify this as supporting the greater good but to me it appears cynical and dehumanising to the Councillors involved. The fact is they supported a rapacious multinational conglomerate over the people of the city who, particularly as Cabinet Members, they are charged with representing.

Question 6

It was disturbing to see a Cabinet member sharing a propaganda video from AMEY PLC entitled “The Protestors Have No Respect For Democracy”.

This from a company that denies public oversight of the contract they are being paid £2.2Bn to implement over 25 years, though apparently we'll now be paying the bill for 45 years, and who have consistently flouted industry good practice and H&S protocols in doing so. This professionally produced and extremely selective view of the trees issue, apparently made with the connivance of the Council, makes unsubstantiated allegations about the conduct of protestors, neither of which incidents resulted in arrests and appear to use SCC evidence footage. There is also a claim that masked people in headlamps are out on the streets causing concern. Are we sure these aren't AMEY subcontractors stalking the streets for unprotected trees at 4am?

Can Council confirm whether footage taken by Council under the Council's internal evidence protocol were used in this video?

If so, who authorised that use?

This was answered by Cllr Jack Scott, being the Cabinet Member that shared the video on Twitter. His response fell into three repetitions. It is not propaganda just another point of view, it is entirely truthful, it has been quite rightly been shared by lots of Councillors. (well the video, as it's original upload on YouTube shows, has been seen just over 700 times, liked once & disliked 31 times. I cannot find anyone else from Council having shared it, certainly not his Cabinet colleagues, his own tweet has been shared only 5 times and liked only twice. There are 50 comments on the tweet, mostly from STAG members taking Cllr Scott to task. Interestingly, the title of the video has now been changed to 'A Residents' View')

Cllr Olivia Blake answered the last point, stating that no SCC evidence material had been used in the video. (Interestingly Council's head of Highways, Paul Billington was in attendance for the Public Questions leaving immediately afterwards. Wonder if he was there to ensure Councillors stuck to the script?)

Question 7

Recent events and the fact that this week included Martin Luther King Day, reminded me of a quote from that great advocate of peaceful protest; “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK I Have a Dream, 1963 The silence from this Council over the violence and unlawful behaviour of security staff employed by it's Streets Ahead contractor is shameful and for women Councillors to remain silent in the face of violence to women is unbelievably so.

I have always tried to work for positive outcomes for this city and have been grateful for the Council's support on various issues, even though we may disagree how to achieve the best results. I have included photos to show the casual abuse of which I speak and ask that you speak out. Any comment?

This was answered by Cllr Olivia Blake who delivered what was clearly a pre-prepared legal statement about reporting incidents of violence to the Police and so on and so forth. (No comment or apparent understanding of why this sort of response is both distasteful or morally dubious. This despite having photographic evidence of the casual abuse being inflicted on peaceful protestors, including women, every day the contractor is on the streets.)

So, a curate's egg of a Public Questions session. Good in parts with some clear answers. In other parts it was rotten to the core as Councillors ditched their humanity to present a united front. There is something broken about this approach and whilst the good needs support the bad needs challenge.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Sheffield City Partnership Board Meeting 12th January 2018

This meeting was intended to focus on the current work streams around inclusive growth and to look at the current position of the State of Sheffield Report 2018, currently being written.

There were three presentations during the public session, the first was from the Cohesion Sheffield team looking at their work in the city.

First up for them was Mike Fitter of the Cohesion Advisory Group. He talked about the Cohesion Sheffield aims being 'a city where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

They are a group that is a co-production between CAG and SCC and some of the early partners involved included, South Yorkshire Police (vis the PCC), University of Sheffield and John Lewis.

They work to two principles; Structural – Based on the fact that cohesion is undermined by deprivation and not diversity. Relational – The idea of the Cohesion Lens – How we all work together.

He also outlined the importance of inclusive growth to the cohesion agenda in the way it brings together social and economic policies. Commented positively on one of my favourite subjects, citizen engagement and community development. Then emphasised the need for local leadership that reflects the current diversity of Sheffield.

Angela Greenwood, Community Services Manager for SCC came next. She talked about how cohesion is about getting on with each other at all levels and about how we maintain cohesion and our ability to intervene when cohesion breaks down.

The benefits of co-production for SCC. Trusted and strong relationships, Innovation and the ability to do so much more as well as access extra funding. £835K from Central Government and £500K from Lottery funding.

Angela also highlighted some challenges; Mistrust of Council & Partners. Constant change of colleagues. Takes longer to achieve things through co-production & Sometimes hard to explain the concept.

The things that SCC were working on were listed as; Cohesion grant fund of £60K over 2 years. Cohesion Charter. Community Investment Deal & Regional & National work.

Finally there was Panni Loh, Development Co-ordinator for Cohesion Sheffield. She outlined the origins and development to date of the group. Based in Voluntary Action Sheffield but working across all sectors. Launched in October 2017, still new. She talked about key activities to date being around Engagement & relationship/trust building. Working with organisations to generate their own Cohesion Action Plans. Lastly there will be a Cohesion Sheffield conference on 21st March 2018 in the Town Hall, all welcome.

There were a number of comments and questions from the Board members around how success would be measured and the scale of the response moving up from individual organisations to a more general cohesion plan.

The next presentation was Simon Ogden of Creative Sheffield, presenting a summary of the Sheffield City Centre Development Plan 2018. This is due for a consultation period in Mid February.

The City Centre Plan is designed to outline a purpose & structure to planning in the city centre. A vision for the next ten years, a clear narrative to everyone, a signal to the market about opportunities in the city, a sales pitch/call to action and a single source of 'truth'

Why City Centre? It's a major driver of the City Region economy, it is key to growth for the city overall, it's a centre for the education sector, it's a meeting point for all the people of the city and it's part of the key to sustainable living.

Some of the key points he highlighted were the move towards a compact and High Quality retail area, three new business districts planned, growing the education campuses, Castlegate development and the better use of roads & public transport. There was a considerable amount more but the presentation was delivered at such a speed as to make it difficult for me to take notes but then, the public is not the audience for this really. That is to wait until the public consultation.

There were a number of projects mentioned that are already underway, either having gained planning approval or indeed being under construction. This rather undermines the idea of a consultation in anything but name only. The plans appear firmly established and the consultation will be a rubber stamp approach I suspect. It is not untypical of the approach of top down design projects, they make the decisions we get to say how much we like it...or not.

I had hoped to hear that real public consultation would be a regular part of the future vision for the city so that the people that live in and use the space can influence the direction it takes. Having a say once every ten years is not good enough in a world where social media can enable regular checks and balances on what planners have in mind.

My final point would be that the heritage economy was mentioned only in passing with respect to Castlegate and it is clear that progress on the steps needed to both safeguard and bring that area back into productive use is painfully slow.

The last presentation was a gallop through the current position on the writing of the State of Sheffield Report 2018 which is due to be published shortly. This was given by Andi Walshaw, Performance & Research Manager for SCC.

He restated the original remit for the report and outlined the agreement as to what would be in this years report. Four sections were identified for detailed reporting. Safety & security, Democracy & engagement, Social and community infrastructure and Health & wellbeing. Each of these would be 2-3000 words with illustrations. More information can be seen in the presentation on the SCPB website.

An initial draft had been circulated to the board for their comments but Andi highlighted some of their thoughts. On the positive, there was plenty of content to work with, there were interesting new topic areas and there had been good engagement with the guest authors.

Improvement was needed in the following areas. Initial content was different to the 'usual' approach of the report, too much opinion and not enough facts, less reference to sources of information than previous years.

There then followed a brief report on the preparations and comms needs for the publication and launch of the report. The comments from the board largely reflected the editor's comments.

Thereafter the meeting wound up. The presentations can be viewed on the SCPB website. The next meeting is Friday 16th March, more details to follow.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Appeal for Your Help

I need your support. All the posts on this website are important but this is one of the posts that can really make a difference.

For the last 5 years I have done what I do with no funding and very little financial support beyond my own time and money. Time is the most precious commodity to enable me to continue my work but time is not as free as we might hope.

If I am not able to attend the meetings and undertake the scrutiny that is the main part of the role I have developed for myself, local politics and decision making will continue. What will be missing is the challenge and influence I can put into that process which, I believe, makes it more transparent and accountable to the public.

Small regular 'subscription' donations each month are the key. Money is tight and I don't want anyone putting themselves in financial hardship to support my work but lots of people, giving a regular small amount that they can afford, will give me the stability to continue my work. Every 'subscriber' will be really appreciated and recognised on this site for their support, irrespective of the amount.

A more stable income will also allow me the time I need to return to your TV screens on Sheffield Live TV, creating more detailed coverage on politics, local community campaigns and local Sheffield enterprises that deserve our support.

To donate, click on the orange button below.

I hope you can help me to make a difference and thank you.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

SCC Full Council Meeting 3rd January 2018

New Year has passed but the 3rd of January brought the first Full Council meeting of 2018 for Sheffield City Council.

As usual I had some questions to ask and, as this meeting also saw the presentation of the Annual Report by the Director of Public Health, Greg Fell, my main questions were about some of the issues that raised. I also had time to drop in a question on the Streets Ahead contract. The questions are detailed below and the answers follow each one.

Questions to Full Council 3rd January 2018

Q1   Having read the Director of Public Health's annual report I would like to register a couple of requests and one concern to Council.

One, I applaud the general move towards a preventative consideration in respect to mental health issues and, as part of that, I would draw additional attention to the 10 ways to improve mental wellbeing on page 65, particularly number 9. I would ask that Council pay keen attention to this comment and ask for advice on how to achieve this aim in cases where policy and neighbourhood needs are in conflict. I obviously refer to the Streets Ahead issues in parts of the city where the response of the Council and it's contractor is almost entirely without humanity and is having impacts on local people's mental health, including that of local children.

Two, as part of the proposed review of mental health services, I ask that Council and CCG look at a broader range of therapies being available to those facing mental health challenges. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is currently used as a one size fits all talking therapy solution to most cases presenting at GP surgeries. This therapy is useful for some people some of the time but is not a panacea. More person based therapies are needed to ensure people presenting with mental health issues are provided with the right care for them. The use of CBT is largely down to simplicity and cost (maximum 6 sessions in one round of treatment) for GPs and providers, this is a short term issue (50% efficacy) set against the long term costs of unsuitable therapy for both the individuals concerned and the health services.

Finally one concern, across the whole range of public health issues we are faced with the inevitability that, much of a person's health is connected to their occupation or lack of one. Having been at the DPH presentation to the Sheffield City Partnership Board and having since had the opportunity to chat in more detail with the Director I have, I'm afraid, added extra problems for him to contend with. The issues around public health and the advance of automation and digitisation in the workplace. We already have a seeming gap of 20% of the working age population who are neither employed nor registered unemployed. Latest predictions are that this will accelerate and progress to 85% of current jobs being lost in the next couple of decades. Forecasts and policies currently being produced by city institutions fail to tackle this issue at this time. Whilst in politics you tend to look little further than the next election but I believe it is important to start the planning for this issue now or the DPH will be faced with a tidal wave of physical & mental health issues created by people cast onto a scrap heap and failed by the limited impact available from economic growth and skills policies. Will Council therefore undertake to consult on this issue and look at developing a joined up policy across all the relevant communities and institutions?

This question was answered by Councillor Cate McDonald, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care. She commented that this was a largely philosophical question and felt the first two points I made did not need an answer as such but assured me she took my comments on board. In actuality I was hoping for at least some comment as to the Council's willingness to tackle these real issues.

On the third point, my concern over a lack of interest in the potential repercussions of predicted automation on jobs and therefore people's health, Cllr McDonald essentially chose not to believe the issue was imminent. She did not agree that if a job can be automated it will be and that if automation was impacting on the economy now we would expect to see productivity rising rather than stalled. This of course ignores the fact that low productivity is already being commented upon as the result of the downward pressure on wages making people less likely to be able to put in the effort needed to increase personal productivity. I guess I shall have to follow this matter up as well and provide some of the evidence to back it up, though it would be better if I could be confident they would bother to read the evidence with an open mind.

Q2   With the New Year, The Streets Ahead contract has moved from the initial 'Investment' phase into the 'Maintenance' phase. It would seem an appropriate time to assess the contracts success so far. As a Council that values transparency and accountability I'm sure you will be keen to provide the public with enough information to ensure we can be confident in the future of the contract. Therefore;

When & where will Council publish the full list of 'Key Performance Indicators' for the contract and details of the contractor's performance against those KPIs?

This question was answered by Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene. Cllr Lodge started by arguing semantics, we were not moving in to a maintenance phase but a Lifecycle Investment phase and we had just finished the Core Investment phase. Having distracted in this way he also told me that the success of the last five years would not be measured by KPIs but by Milestones. The performance against these milestiones is currently being gathered and will be checked by an independent assessor. As part of his answer Cllr Lodge also seems to have moved the goal posts yet again. In September I asked about the streets still awaiting resurfacing under this core investment part of the contract. Cllr Lodge indicated that about 100 miles was still in need of resurfacing to meet the 70% 'milestone'. In this meeting he suggested that the expected resurfacing would be within the target of 60 to 70% of roads resurfaced. A very different target. Other KPIs are supposed to be reported on the Council's website and Cllr Lodge has promised a link. A member of the public who was in the gallery for the meeting, David Glass, has been kind enough to share his recording of this last question, thank you David. Link to Video

So, the first meeting of the year is past but many more still to come. Will transparency and accountability improve? Will webcasting ever arrive? (more tests were being carried out during yesterday's meeting) Only time will tell.