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, 21 May 2018

SCR Mayor Election – A Unique Experience?

Friday the 4th May 2018 was the day the first Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, and possibly the only Mayor of the SCR was elected.

Polls closed Thursday at 10pm but the count did not start until 9am the next morning. The result was expected around noon but, as ever, things did not go quite to plan. I was given accreditation to attend the count as part of the Sheffield Live TV contingent, with a view to securing some interviews with candidates during the count or after the result.

One candidate was missing from the off, Ian Walker (Conservative) was apparently in Japan for a business engagement, perhaps a sign they did not expect to make much impact. The rest of the line up of candidates were all present each with various degrees of confidence being displayed, I ran into Dan Jarvis MP as we both arrived at about the same time and, consummate politician that he is, he demurred my suggestion he was a likely winner, expressing hope rather than certainty.

Connecting with Sheffield City Council Chief Executive, John Mothersole I asked for an update on the count and the likely declaration time. He seemed confident that this would be before 1pm. However, 1pm came and went and despite a calm atmosphere overall there was clearly something not quite going to plan.

It transpired when SCR staff updated the candidates and then the press that there was an issue in Barnsley over an imbalance between verified votes and the actual count. In other words when the ballot boxes were first opened and invalid papers removed the remaining valid ballot papers came to one number but, after the individual votes for candidates were counted and totalled, those numbers did not match. This is not allowed.

Consequently we had not one but two recounts before the two numbers from Barnsley matched and still it was not over. To a certain amount of surprise amongst many, although in the lead after the first preference votes were counted, Dan Jarvis MP received only 47% of the required 50% to win. There were looks of trepidation in the Labour camp. We were now into a period of counting second preference votes. This would add at least another hour or so to the expected declaration time.

Probably one of the more interesting aspects during all this hanging about was catching some of the gossip and spotting the local politicos who were or were not there. Mayor Ros Jones from Doncaster was there but declined to say anything in front of camera, as an observer only. Sir Steve Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council was not there. Whether this is indicative of the relative interest from the two dissenting Councils is still to be seen. Meanwhile, there were also appearances from Julie Dore (Leader of Sheffield Council), Paul Blomfield MP & Alan Billings (South Yorkshire PCC)

Of the gossip, hearing someone call Steve Houghton as having seemingly gone rogue was surprising and may not bode well for an early resolution of the current impasse.

I decided at this time to try and grab some of the first round losing candidates for interviews. Hannah Kitching (Lib Dems) was first up as she was also standing in the local election in Barnsley, where she later won the Penistone Ward. The English Democrat, David Allen left immediately so no interview there but the rest of the candidates were happily forthcoming. and I also managed to line up interviews with a senior officer from the City Region and the Vice Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Of the interviews, Dan Jarvis MP, the winner was the last as following the declaration he suddenly became the property of the SCR and the press handlers stepped in to control his exposure. The full results can be seen here. The compilation video of the interviews is below, along with the new Mayor's speech.

Labour's Dan Jarvis elected as South Yorkshire region mayor from Sheffield Live on Vimeo.

The Mayor's first formal SCRCA (or will it now be SCRMA?) meeting is 11th June and this will mark 3 months with no apparent political or public oversight of the City Region's activities. It will be interesting to see whether the Mayor has a view on when will be his last formal meeting, 2020 or the legislated 2022?

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Monday, 12 March 2018

Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Meeting - 9th March 2018

Unusually the meeting started late, nearly 15 minutes late. Are we to assume the 'secret' part of the meeting had some controversy? Certainly the public meeting was down to be all business, despite a public question from me.

The formal public meeting started with the usual preamble around apologies, items for the exclusion of press etc. Interestingly and for me disappointing there was a complete lack of any potential or declared Mayoral candidates at the meeting. This is the Authority they will be leading after the election in May and they missed the opportunity to attend and see the theatre for themselves.

I can say that the candidate for the Yorkshire Party, Mick Bower of Rotherham, has attended several previous meetings but not a single candidate or potential candidate for the major parties has ever, as far as I know, attended a City Region Meeting. The next meeting of the SCRCA is planned for April 30th, during election Purdah, so this was their only opportunity to see the Region Leaders in action before the election.

The only people in the 'public gallery' a grand title for half a dozen chairs against one wall of the meeting room, were myself and two ladies from Moorends, in the Doncaster Borough. They were there to present a petition from the village about bus services. It was nice to see them there, in the right place to ask about Public Transport issues and that they got at least a partial response.

The Chair, Chris Read (Leader of Rotherham Borough) acknowledged the petition, thanked them and promised to refer it to the Transport Committee (part of the SCRCA structure). Ros Jones – Mayor of Doncaster, responded to say she supported the petition and the need for a service to Moorends. Julie Dore – Leader of Sheffield City Council also responded to support the petition being put to the Committee and to suggest, if they had one, to Doncaster's Bus Partnership.

My question was next up; What Skills Training or Apprenticeship contracts for SCR are currently delivered by Learndirect Ltd?

An Ofsted inspection in 2017 found the company “inadequate” and a Government DfE spokeswoman said: "The government is ending Learndirect's contract to provide apprenticeships and adult education, because of its failure to meet the high standards expected.

What will be the impact of this report and this statement on SCR learners?

BBC News Report 2nd March 2018

The response came from the Chair, Chris Read to the effect that; Officers confirmed this is a National Contract so no direct delivery of services for SCRCA by Learn Direct but there will be some impact on local Learners. That information was not immediately available but Officers would be tasked to provide the detail.

A reasonable answer, I'll await the complete response.

The meeting was settling into it's usual routine of brief reports from Officers on financial, committee and Executive Board operations. Few matters of interest though, those with a good memory, will note that the initial forecast of costs for the Mayoral Election has risen from £1M to nearly £2M but no comment on why and no query of this from any of the political leaders in attendance.

On the Capital Funding side of things it looks likely the CA will be underspent by nearly £10M and officers are now negotiating(?) to retain this money for next year rather than return it to Government. In this same report we may have found this month's source of irritation between the Council Leaders

"2.19 Local transport capital pot This element is a proposed new component of the South Yorkshire transport capital programme and accounts for 8% of the overall programme. It is proposed to split the pot (£3.5m) across Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham according to their population estimates. Further details about this element of the programme can be found in a separate report which will be presented to CA Leaders on 9th March 2018."

Julie Dore started by asking where this £3.5M came from and what was the rationale that allocated the money to only 3 of the relevant districts on a per capita proportionate basis? Also were there any other examples of where this had been done before?

Response from Officers indicated this was part of the overall borrowing in the Capital Programme for the Passenger Transport Authority. The programme of spending for Sheffield City had been agreed and this further amount was therefore allocated just to Barnsley Doncaster & Rotherham. Julie Dore reiterated her need for a rationale behind that decision if the overall South Yorkshire PTE pot was where this money came from. It is to be noted the previous reports do not refer to this 'pot' being restricted to only 3 of the 4 Councils.

It was at this point that moods deteriorated and pointed comments were made over the cost of Supertram (benefitting only Sheffield) as a negative impact on SCR budgets and that Barnsley taxpayers deserved this pot. Barnsley and Doncaster were essentially saying Sheffield got enough and they wanted something just for the smaller distrticts. Rotherham tried to keep the peace but when it came to a recorded vote, the three districts outvoted Sheffield. Was £3.5M worth the further bad feeling this will generate between Council Leaders?

The rest of the reports passed by without comment or questions from leaders again and the meeting was wound up soon after.

Next Meeting - 30th April 2018, 2pm, AMP – This falls during election Purdah and may be subject to change.

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.