Tuesday 18th – SCACC (Sheffield Campaign Against Climate Change) meeting in the evening. Discussion about fracking – sharing information about the planning process, the working group within SCC looking at ways to signal as forcefully as possible that Sheffield does not welcome fracking (there is no legal means for the council to stop it per se) and input from leading the direct action (Frack Off Campaign). Also about the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign (I offered to try to explore this with Sheffield members of the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority). And an abortive update on the promised Green Commission, which is to be launched very soon. Sadly, although all parties will be welcome to contribute, not all parties are involved in setting it up or deciding the terms of reference. Somewhat like the Fairness Commission, but on a smaller scale. I’ll still be interested to follow what happens and am sure that SCACC will use it as best they can to influence the council.
Wednesday 19th – moving into the final run up to the budget. There was Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the morning. It consists of Scrutiny Chairs (all Labour) and Deputies (all Lib Dem) but I go and observe when I can. There was a question about libraries and about the loss of the early morning bus passes for disabled people, including children and the blind. We had put a motion to council about this before the decision was made at South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority which had been voted down by Labour. In the afternoon, it was the budget cabinet, held in the council chamber to accommodate people bringing petitions and questions about the libraries. It was Cllr Iqbal’s penultimate chance (following the packed Scrutiny Committee the previous evening) to explain (1) why Labour chose to cut libraries rather than something else and (2) why they chose the particular model of hubs, community and independent libraries. Once again, he failed to answer the questions. People are almost as infuriated at this lack of clear explanation as at the decision itself and several have told me they don’t think it is worth taking part in consultations any more. In the evening, our own Campaigns group where the councillors and party members helping us shape our budget amendment took our ideas – now well worked up – to a wider group for discussion.
Thursday 20th – Licensing Policy meeting. Cllr Nikki Bond and I both had to leave for one decision: to modify the conditions for street traders selling fruit and vegetables. Nikki had campaigned (as had Cllr Rob Murphy) on behalf of local shops who are threatened by the sale of cheap fresh fruit and veg near to their premises; I had helped the street traders get up a petition calling on the council to soften the new rules which have now run for a year. The result was that the rest of the committee decided to allow them to trade within 500m (instead of 800m) of a shop and for 7 rather than 5 days a week, but not to sell any other goods at all. This seems a reasonable compromise, keeping them in business and helping the many women who rely on them for affordable fresh fruit and vegetables. The other decision was not to change the frequency of medicals for taxi drivers. We felt we didn’t have enough evidence to show that screening for diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease would prevent accidents and make the public safer. We will seek more evidence and reconsider in 6 months.
Saturday 22nd – I organised a training day for party members who want to help with our election effort (“nuts and bolts”); there were far more people than I dared hope would attend and people were really enthused, including about the soup and cake (cooked by Brian Webster’s partner Amy). And then Jim and I made a dash to Oxfordshire to see a friend of his and stay with my mother, becoming more shaky as the months after losing my father go by and as she waits for her hip replacement. I did a massive tidy in my father’s workshop; Jim helped with paperwork (which he always used to do and she is struggling with).
Monday 24th – back in time for Anna Semlyen speaking to Sheffield Skeptics. Really good presentation and question and answer session – all the evidence for why 20 is plenty and why a city-wide scheme would be so much more cost effective than piecemeal coverage in small zones. I wrote to the Star about it and have since embarked on a long exchange of emails with a skeptic who sadly didn’t come to the meeting to ask the questions himself. But it’s a good way of going deeper and deeper into the evidence and understanding the mindset of the doubters.
Tuesday 25th – day off walking, meal out and theatre to celebrate Jim’s birthday (which was actually the day before).
Wednesday 26th – visited Rethink, the hostel for people with mental health crises, so they can be kept in the community instead of being admitted to hospital. The neighbours objected to the planning application, failed to get a judicial review and remain very critical of its presence. We discussed the possibility of mediation and I offered to play a part if it would help.
Friday 28th – went to Liverpool for the Green Party national conference. Some very good keynote speeches, plenaries and workshops. And curry with other Green Councillors.