Once in a blue moon… well every two years… the Greens are allowed to have a motion to be debated in the council chamber. This was our chance.
But we still missed out.
Most motions to Council don’t get debated as there isn’t enough time. Only the first one or two motions are debated, so it is important to know whose motions are listed first. The rest are just voted on, although the results of the votes are recorded in the formal minutes.
There is a formula to plan this out over the year – the details are here if you’re interested. This meeting was the time our motion on funding for buses was first on the list and should have been debated.
However, it didn’t happen because the council decided to add an extra four big items before it on the agenda.
The meeting started at 2pm. First was the introduction of the new Lib-Dem councillor for Mosborough. Then, public questions and petitions, on topics such as flood defences in Oughtibridge and the possible loss of grant funding for the Mental Health Action Group (MHAGS). Tim Jones spoke passionately and Cllr Jack Scott had to accept that “MHAGS has a huge impact” and “saves the council far more than we put in.”
The big petition was for road safety improvements in Fulwood, which was debated as more than 5,000 signatures had been received. Martin Jacobs, whose daughter was hit by a passing car on Hangingwater Road in Fulwood, gave a very professional presentation calling for urgent improvements at the junction. In the debate that followed, I spoke about the need for improvements – at this junction but equally in many other parts of the city. I described some derelict roads that no longer led anywhere but which have been fully re-surfaced with new pavements and streetlights under the PFI contract and said this is where the real choice over priorities lies.
The debate ended with a proposal that caused uproar in the public gallery and made everyone else cringe. The cabinet member, Cllr Mazher Iqbal announced that “the decision and recommendation from me is to do nothing.” There was a moment of uncomfortable silence amongst Labour members when the Lord Mayor asked who would second this proposal.
We abstained on the vote because it isn’t a simple yes-no question. Clearly we support the petitioners. But at the same time, we cannot agree to just jumping the queue over equally dangerous junctions in other areas. What is needed are more resources directed towards road safety citywide.
After that came the annual report of the Director of Public Health and questions on it. I asked what his advice was to members of the executive faced with decisions that could damage public health – such as cutting grant funding to MHAGS.
In the session on responses from Cabinet members to councillors’ questions, Green Cllr Alison Teal got a response which confirmed that Cllr Jayne Dunn had indeed used her cabinet position to support her Labour colleagues rather than the council, something we feel is in breach of the members’ code of conduct.
At 6.30, there is a guillotine on further debate and everything remaining on the agenda is just voted on – so that meant there was no chance for any of the Green councillors to speak on public transport. Labour voted against our proposal and therefore refused to investigate alternative sources of funding for public transport. Labour also voted against our motion on HS2. They did, however, support our amendment to commend the many agencies working hard to tackle complex issues of begging, alcohol and drug problems, street homelessness and mental health, something Green Cllr Rob Murphy has been actively supporting as a City Ward councillor.
Councillor Douglas Johnson
Sheffield Green Party