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Sheffield City Council has issued a response to yesterday’s cancellation of an event planned by Library Workers for a Brighter Future. The event was to feature poet Ian McMillan and was to take place at Upperthorpe Library in an effort to highlight the value of public libraries..
Richard Webb, Executive Director of Communities for the council said:
“We were approached by Library Workers for a Brighter Future, which is a group campaigning against library cuts locally and nationally. Our understanding was that they wanted to hold a workshop event in a library which would both celebrate libraries and be part of their campaign against cuts. We gave the advice that at this time, when Councillors haven’t made any decisions about funding for libraries in the coming year, it would not be appropriate to hold an event like this in a library.
“Ian McMillan is a great writer and a great Yorkshireman. He’s also a powerful ambassador for celebrating what libraries have to offer and is always assured of a warm welcome here. If something has got lost in translation here, then we want to put it right. We are trying to contact him and would be delighted to work with him to showcase what Sheffield’s libraries do – and to get more Sheffielders to enjoy what they have to offer.”
BBC Radio Sheffield reported this morning that they were refused permission by the Council to record a segment in a Sheffield Library yesterday.
Poet, broadcaster and comedian Ian McMillan has been banned from appearing at a childrens’ creative writing workshop by Sheffield City Council, over fears he might make “political comments”.
The event was due to take place at Upperthorpe Library, and was intended to highlight the value of public libraries. The cancellation was reported earlier today by Library Workers For A Brighter Future, a group working in opposition to proposed cuts to public libraries. The cancellation was later confirmed by a spokesperson for Mr McMillan.
McMillan, 55, said: “Libraries are a vital and irreplaceable part of a cultured and civilised society, and one of the few public places left where you don’t have to pay to get in.”
Sheffield’s libraries are expected to see a £2.5m cut in funding by 2013/14.
A spokesperson for Library Workers For A Brighter Future said: “The event, conceived as a fun and creative way of highlighting the value of public libraries, appears to have caused great concern for the council, with the decision over whether it should be allowed to go ahead passed all the way up to members of the senior management. We view this as a misguided and heavy-handed attempt to silence those of us who want to stand up for our library service and oppose the potentially devastating public sector cuts.”
SheffieldPolitics has contacted Sheffield City Council, who were unable to confirm the reason for the cancellation at the time of publication.
The cut to the grant, which council leader Paul Scriven pledged to oppose should it be over 15%, came in at roughly 8%, although this is still 4% higher than the national average.
Cllr Brian Lodge, deputy leader of the city’s Labour group, said that when council tax receipts and the additional grant for social care are taken into account, the effective cut for 2011/12 is more like 14.57%.
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting of the full council, he said: “This is a devastating settlement for Sheffield. This is a 15% cut like for like.”
Labour councillor Jack Scott further accused the Liberal Democrats of going along with the coalition settlement despite it being unfair for the city, and hitting the poorest hardest.
He said: “Every week we see how this government brings new meaning to the phrase ‘women and children first'”.
In response, an animated Simon Clement-Jones, Lib Dem cabinet member for finance, said: “Honestly, I’ve heard some shrill whining in my time, but this?” before repeatedly asking what the Labour group would do in their position.
Paul Scriven, leader of the council pointed out that Labour leader Ed Miliband had said before the election that many of the same cuts would have been made. He said Labour had said one thing before the election, and another after, which drew jeers from across the chamber.
The vote was lost by the Liberal Democrats as Green councillors sided with Labour against the motion. Green councillor Rob Murphy said: “30 years of broken promises? The Lib Dems broke that many in 30 days.”
The ‘Mosquito’ emits a high pitched noise only audible by children and young people under 25, and is intended to cut anti social behaviour.
The council’s Liberal Democrat cabinet is to hear that the devices are indiscriminate and do little to solve the problem of antisocial behaviour. The cabinet is not expected to endorse the device, despite it having been used in the past as a condition for granting licenses to off licences.
Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “If you are under 25, so-called ‘Mosquito’ devices are deeply uncomfortable to listen to. Residents living nearby will understandably have little sympathy with young people who are being a nuisance, but what about those who are just going about their normal business, or babies and young children out shopping with their parents? The ‘Mosquito’ doesn’t discriminate and that’s unfair.
“What we’ve found is that these devices don’t tackle the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour, they just move it somewhere else. We need to work with young people rather than against them.”
Harry Carter, Sheffield’s Member of the UK Youth Parliament and a campaigner against the devices, said: “It’s encouraging to see senior councillors publicising their opposition to the mosquito device. It’s a device that discriminates against young people, making no distinction between those that are law-abiding or being anti-social. The council, I believe, recognise that a more hands on approach to tackling anti-social behaviour would be much more beneficial to communities.”
The Mosquito is manufactured by British company Compound Security Systems. Their website features a testimonial from Arbourthorne Labour councillor John Robson, who says: “Sheffield City Council Licensing Board (of which I am a member) have on several occasions made it a mandatory condition of a licensing application that a mosquito device be fitted to a shop that sells alcohol – where there is evidence of youth nuisance in the neighbourhood.”
The Council of Europe voted to ban the device in June, but the ban is not binding unless the European Parliament vote to enforce it.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg looked shaken leaving Sheffield Town Hall this evening, as an impromptu demonstration chanted and hurled abuse.
Mr Clegg was in Sheffield to speak with the city’s Liberal Democrat councillors, at a meeting held behind closed doors. His presence in Sheffield was only revealed when Labour councillor Ibrar Hussain mentioned it in this afternoon’s meeting of the full council.
A small crowd of students and activists began to gather outside the building after word of the meeting spread via Twitter.
Earlier today, Mr Clegg was heckled by students while campaigning ahead of the Oldham by-election.
The council voted today to object to the city’s local government finance settlement, which will see the council’s spending power cut by 8.35% next year.
Communities minister Eric Pickles is said to be furious that almost all top earning council bosses, including Sheffield council’s Chief Executive, have ignored his order to take a pay cut.
Pickles told council chief executives to cut their pay by 5% if they earned more than the Prime Minister’s salary of £150,000, or by 10% if they earned more than £200,000. The Times reports only seven council chief executives nationwide have cut their salaries.
Sheffield City Council’s Chief Executive, John Mothersole has yet to announce a cut in his salary of £184,585. On Christmas Eve, Mr Mothersole announced a pay freeze for all council workers earning more than £21,000 a year.
The council employs more than 18,000 staff, around 45% of whom earn more than £20,000 a year.
Grant Shapps, Mr Pickles deputy, today called for high paid council execs to lead by example:
“We’re not asking the top paid chief executives, there are 129 of them earning more than the prime minister, we’re not asking them to do anything more than we’ve done as ministers. Every minister in this government has taken a 5% cut, and a five-year pay freeze. I think if you are expecting people to take some very difficult decisions throughout a local authority, then it’s right to lead from the top.”
Mr Mothersole forfeited his £20,000 returning officer fee in May, and apologised for mistakes which led to long queues at polling stations for the general election, and hundreds being turned away.