Sheffield Labour councillor opposes own decision

Sheffield City Hall - Some rights reserved by Welcome to SheffieldAngela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge has called on Sheffield City Council not to close Stocksbridge Leisure Centre. Stocksbridge is in the remote rural north of Sheffield and local people will not have the same access to alternatives that others in Sheffield might.

So who is making the proposal to close Stocksbridge Leisure Centre? Well it turns out that the cabinet advisor for leisure on Sheffield City Council is Smith’s husband, one Cllr Steve Wilson.

Might this be a topic to discuss at home before troubling the press?

But there’s more. Cllr Wilson is also employed in Angela Smith’s office as, wait for it, press officer. So his job is to issue a press release calling on himself to change his own decision.

Amid this farce the people of Stocksbridge stand to lose their leisure centre. While Sheffield faces a tough spending settlement, and is also under fire for the proposal to close Don Valley Stadium, where Jessica Ennis does part of her outdoor training, the council continues to spend large amounts of money on trade union officials, Park Hill flats – a vanity brutalist housing project, consultants and office refurbishments.

Meanwhile there is a £10m cash injection of government money into sporting facilities in Sheffield as part of an initiative to develop a centre of excellence in sports and exercise medicine as part of the Olympic legacy. If successful this would be a model for the rest of the country. It is not clear whether this might offer some relief to Jessica Ennis or the people of Stocksbridge, but perhaps Cllr Wilson could issue a press release to himself calling for more joined up thinking.

* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield and Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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12 Comments

  • James Hardy 19th Jan '13 - 6:29pm

    Couldn’t help but be reminded of this:

    Sir Humphrey: It is so difficult for me you see, as I am wearing two hats.
    Jim: Yes, isn’t that rather awkward for you.
    Sir Humphrey: Not if one is in two minds.
    Bernard: Or has two faces.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Jan '13 - 8:54pm

    Surely, the headline does not match the story? It is the wife opposing the policies ‘advised’? by her husband. It is a bit unwise to assume that husband and wife agree on everything! Similarly, he might well issue his wife’ press release opposing the closure but that’s what he’s paid to do. Doesn’t mean he agrees with her.

    Having said all the above, it is still a farcical situation.

  • that old Yorkshire epithet springs to mind ” Bulls–t baffles brains” at least that`s what some of our politicians think.

  • Politics is a strange business which seems to put people in farcical situations. For instance in Feb 2012 a Lib Dem peer, Lord Lester, voted against his own amendment. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17111767

  • peter.tyzack 20th Jan ’13 – 11:00am
    .. and wasn’t there some rule about MPs not employing family members.?

    Yes Nick Clegg has gone very quiet on “cleaning up politics”

  • .. and wasn’t there some rule about MPs not employing family members.?

    As I recall any family member already employed was grandfathered in

  • Peter Davies 20th Jan '13 - 5:37pm

    Trade unions have to have 500 members at Sheffield City Council to get their fist rep released and they get another rep for every 1000 members after that. This is more than most private companies where recognition agreements exist. Surely consulting with a rep is less of a drain on resources than consulting with thousands of individuals. Stop jumping on the Tory union bashing band wagon with every story.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Jan '13 - 6:13pm

    A wonderful story.

    As for not employing family members, a completely daft rule.

    “Politics is a strange business which seems to put people in farcical situations. For instance in Feb 2012 a Lib Dem peer, Lord Lester, voted against his own amendment.”

    But enough of us voted for it to pass it!

    Tony Greaves

  • Peter,

    Sheffield has 19 full time reps costing £0.5m pa, representing 3 unions, and part timers on top. It is hard to see how this is necessary for the occasional consultation.

    At the very least, this should be considered a “back office” function to take cuts before the front line, and if you consider that union-bashing it is hard to see how any reasoned debate of the role of unions is going to be possible.

  • Peter Davies 21st Jan '13 - 9:24am

    Joe, it seems that there isn’t much understanding out there as to what level of consultation is required to make hundreds of people redundent, achieve structure changes in every department in the Council and consult about any reasonable alternative to cutting front line services. It is a huge piece of work and a failure by an employer to consult can result in a protective of up to 12 weeks wages for each person employed. The Council employs almost 8000 people excluding School staff (that would be almost 12,000). I need not tell you how big that bill could be if officers fail to carry out that consultation properly. This is the law and that is where the debate on consultation should be. I for 1 do not believe in weekening employees rights but that’s just me.

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