Council debate the New Deal investigation

Story: Ian Clifford

Wednesday June 4th saw Sheffield’s full Council receive and debate the report on the investigation into alleged irregularities in appointments and awarding of contracts at Burngreave New Deal for Communities.

Public questions

Matters concerning New Deal started with 3 questions from the public: Steve Gayle, Development Worker at BCAF noted that there had been a lot of recent reporting in the press indicating that the Burngreave Community had lost confidence in BNDfC. He said that he wasn’t sure how that conclusion had been arrived at, but said that – if it were the case – how did the new administration hope to work with the Burngreave community to rebuild that trust?

Muhammad Iqbal, New Deal board community rep and former chair, said that, given that the investigation report found no evidence of serious improper conduct or wrongdoing, wasn’t it inappropriate to call for the resignation of John Clark?

Ronnie Lewin, current Chair of the Board, asked whether the new leader of the Council, Paul Scriven, had visited Burngreave recently to see the change and asked how the new administration would build on that change.

Replying to these questions, Paul Scriven said he was anxious to stress that the issues raised by the report were not against the people or the community of Burngreave and their efforts to regenerate the community, but about serious weaknesses and failings in the management of New Deal. Councillor Scriven stressed that the Council had a duty, as accountable body for the New Deal programme, to address these issues.

Concerns raised by the report

Councillor Scriven went on to list concerns raised in the report:

  • Letting contracts of over £100,000 of taxpayers’ money without proper procedures.

  • Bill Husband was appointed as the only candidate on the say so of John Clark

  • The recruitment of Bill Husband was described in the report as ‘flawed’

The Liberal-Democrats then moved a resolution regarding the New Deal investigation which noted the report, expressed disappointment, regretted that the people of Burngreave had been let down by the Council in its role as accountable body and called for New Deal to act on the recommendations of the report.

No confidence

The resolution included the following paragraphs:

"(This Council) has no confidence that the Chief Executive of Burngreave New Deal for Communities has the ability to carry out these changes quickly and effectively and therefore calls for the resignation of the present Burngreave New Deal for Communities Chief Executive in order to restore the confidence of local people.

“Believes that the poor management of Burngreave New Deal for Communities is not a full reflection of the positive work carried out by Burngreave New Deal for Communities.”

Speaking to the resolution, Paul Scriven thanked officers and the Star newspaper. He stressed that the new Liberal-Democrat administration wanted the best for Burngreave, saying it was the previous Liberal Democrat administration, under Councillor Peter Moore, that had pressed for Burngreave to be awarded New Deal for Communities.

However, Paul Scriven listed the weaknesses outlined in the report:

  • There were no Terms of Reference for the Partnership Board

  • Financial procedures had not been formally agreed by the Board

  • There was no evidence that proper contracts had been entered into

  • There was no reference of a contract with JMJ, which had been taken on on the say so of John Clark.

  • Similarly, Bill Husband had been taken on on the say so of John Clark.

Paul Scriven went on to call for the resignation of John Clark.

Seconding the motion, the Lib-Dem cabinet member for finance, Simon Clement-Jones, caused uproar on the Labour benches when he said, “When there are large amounts of money involved, there will always be people prepared to take advantage.” He stressed that he seconded the resolution “more in sorrow than in anger.”

Lib Dems ‘hysterical’

Replying for the Labour opposition, Jan Wilson branded the response to the report by the Liberal-Democrats as “hysterical”. She stressed that while nobody condoned practices that weren’t robust, at no point had there been any allegation of improper use of funds.

In one of the more sane contributions of the afternoon, Green group leader, Jillian Creasy (a member of the Councillors’ working party which oversaw the recommendation) made three points:

  • While there were irregularities and the New Deal Board was not fully aware of what was going on, the mismanagement did not reflect on the good work done within the community. In addition, at no point had the working party mentioned issues of John Clark resigning or money being withheld.

  • In addition, Councillor Creasy doubted whether the Council, as accountable body, had the legal powers to withhold money, which could only be justified if insufficient information is provided in quarterly financial returns.

  • While all parties now talked of devolving power, the critical issue was “how”. These issues needed to be approached in a spirit of learning.

She added:

"we will not progress the idea of empowering local communities by threatening and punishing them"

Labour Councillors – Steve Jones, Tim Rippon, Jackie Drayton and Ibrar Hussain – all referred to the achievements of Burngreave New Deal for Communities. Councillor Steve Jones said that to act in a heavy-handed way, to threaten to withhold funding and to demoralise people was a disgrace. Jackie Drayton stressed that while the report exposed serious weaknesses, there was no wrongdoing and people needed to support and trust local people.

In the end the Labour group abstained on most of the Liberal-Democrats' resolution while the Greens supported the resolution with the exception of sections calling for John Clark’s resignation, an investigation into the Council’s role as accountable body and a section agreeing to write a letter to Burngreave New Deal for Communities threatening to withhold money until action is taken and “proper management is in place”


However, with the support of the majority Liberal-Democrat group, the resolution calling for the resignation of John Clark and threatening to withhold money from Burngreave New Deal for Communities was passed by Sheffield City Council in full.

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The content on this page was added to the website by Lisa Swift on 2008-06-05 16:17:04.
The content of the page was last modified by Douglas Johnson on 2008-06-18 11:39:37.

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