Tag Archives: Sheffield City Council

Council bans Poet Ian McMillan from library event due to fears of “political comments”

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.

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Council votes to oppose Sheffield’s financial settlement

Sheffield City Council last night voted to oppose the city’s local government financial settlement, which will require deep cuts in council spending.

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.”

Council chief execs resist calls for pay cut

Council Chief Exec John Mothersole, who earns £184,500 per 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.

Council votes in favour of budget cuts

Plans for £6.5m of cuts to Sheffield’s public services have been narrowly approved today by a heated meeting of Sheffield City Council.

As previously reported, more than half of the cuts will be to Children and Young People’s services, with projects combat substance abuse and teen pregnancy among those that will lose funding.

“Taxing less and spending more,” said Council Leader Paul Scriven, “is fun in the short run, but it’s a recipe for disaster. And that’s what the last government’s recipe was.”

He also warned that if the Labour group were successful in blocking the budget as-is, the reductions would have to be made up in “mainstream” public services. “Schools, social workers. Real services cut because you haven’t had the backbone to face the people of this city and face the consequences of the mess that your government left this city and country in.”

Cllr Scriven said that while they have been able to protect permanent jobs from redundancies, contract and temporary workers may find their contracts shortened or not renewed.

Labour Councillor Julie Dore said of the Lib Dems role in the coalition government, “You’re just lapdogs, figleaves. But boy don’t they just roll you out when they want you to announce some bad news. Whatever you decide, this is about ideology. Do not be fooled. The role of public services, how they are delivered and more importantly who delivers them is what this is all about.”

Far from the sombre faces put on by George Osborne and the cabinet on budget day, the Lib Dem cabinet appeared in more jovial spirits this afternoon. After pointing out that the country was paying out £80,000 a minute in interest, three councillors (Colin Ross, Shaffaq Mohammed and Simon Clement-Jones) openly joked about their three minute “quarter million pound” speeches. Their humour was met with uproarious laughter from the Lib Dem side of the chamber and stony faces opposite.

Cllr Mohammed said Labour councillors had been providing plenty of rhetoric, but had not come up with any of their own ideas.

“You can criticise the reductions as much as you want,” he said, “but unless you come forward with alternatives you’ve got no leg to stand on. It’s alright standing on the steps of the town hall and making speeches, but those people that actually know what’s happening in the city don’t want retoric, they want an alternative. Until you provide an alternative, you have no right to govern or lead the city.”

Cllr Andrew Sangar, cabinet member for climate change and waste management, paid tribute to the Green Party councillors for coming up with alternatives to the budget cuts, but he said “Clearly we don’t agree with it. They’re a high tax party, we’re not. We’re a fair tax party.”

Cllr Clement-Jones illustrated the city’s financial situation in terms of the debt left to Sheffield by the 1991 World Student Games. “We’re currently paying £25m every year, and will be unitl 2024. This recession will cost us two World Student Games a year for the next four years.”

Labour Cllr Jack Scott, who stood against Nick Clegg in this year’s general election, and who is a likely candidate for the vacant position of Sheffield Labour group leader, said, “Let nobody be in any doubt, this budget is a budget from hell. This fiscal sadism. It’s too much too soon and it’s too dangerous.”

He also quoted pre-election campaign literature distributed by Paul Scriven, which said “Conservative plans will mean cuts to services now and a longer recession.”

“The public debt now is £15bn less than when you wrote these leaflets,” he said, “Nothing that you’ve said today about the debt was not known then, when you said these things. Nobody in Sheffield will ever believe a word you say ever again.

“These vicious and duplicitous right wing Liberals can fool themselves, but they can’t fool Sheffield. They are out of ideas, out of excuses and out on their ear at the next election.”

Scriven faces calls for resignation over Forgemasters

Sheffield City Council met today to debate the Forgemasters loan and the interim budget

Lib Dem council leader Paul Scriven faced calls for his resignation today, during a debate on the council’s handling of the Sheffield Forgemasters loan.

But Cllr Scriven says that Forgemasters executives welcome Vince Cable’s recent statement on the matter, and are positive about a review of the loan in the Autumn.

Councillor Bryan Lodge called directly for the Leader’s resignation, saying he had let down the 10,000 people who had signed a petition against the cancellation of the loan. “When will you do the honorable thing and resign, so we can have a member of your party who is a proper leader who will represent and stand up for Sheffield? Do it now.”

Cries of “resign” were also heard in the council chamber as Labour Cllr Harry Harpham requested an apology from Cllr Scriven for making “false and unfounded” excuses to justify the decision.

In a previous meeting of the council, Cllr Scriven echoed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s allegation that Forgemasters shareholders had been unwilling to raise cash by diluting their share holdings. Mr Clegg admitted that this allegation was not true in a recent letter to Forgemasters’ Chief Executive Dr Graham Honeyman.

Questions were also asked about Cllr Scriven’s handling of the situation prior to the decision being taken to cancel the loan.

The council agreed on 7th June, ten days before the Forgemasters loan was cancelled, to write to Business Secretary Vince Cable outlining the importance of the investment. It has since emerged that the letter was not sent until 25th June, a week after the decision had been announced.

Acting Labour group leader Cllr Bryan Lodge, said “I call on members in this chamber of all parties to look at this and ask why this council did not write until after the decision was taken. Why did it take three weeks, and where is your support for Sheffield business and standing up for the people of this city?”

Lib Dem Cllr Mark Reynolds dismissed concerns over the lateness of the letters as “trivial.”

Labour Cllr Tony Damms said “We’re proud of our steel heritage in Sheffield. Given the chances and given the tools to do the job, we can make anything out of steel in this city. We’ve got a proud heritage, a proud past. And what Nick Clegg and the ConDems are doing is denying us a proud future.”

He also called for Mr Clegg to attend a public meeting to explain the reasons behind the decision.

“People don’t understand,” he said, “and I feel that some people in this chamber hope that by ignoring this issue it will go away. Well it isn’t going anywhere. ”

Cllr Scriven accused the Labour group of trying to “make cheap party political points” out of the issue.

He drew the council’s attention to a letter he has received from Graham Honeyman, Chief Executive of Sheffield Forgemasters. In the letter, Mr Honeyman welcomes the statement made by Mr Cable yesterday, in which he said that the decision may be reviewed in the autumn when the availability of public money “becomes clearer”.

In the letter, Mr Honeyman goes on to ask the council, across political boundaries, “to welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment, and give support for the company and that future review.”

Lib Dem Cllr Ian Aukland warned that the ongoing debate on the issue could have a detrimental effect on the business. “Forgemasters is a world class business.” He said, “We are in danger of making the world out there who are not following this in detail think there is a problem with Forgemasters, and there isn’t.”