Burngreave New Deal's management was effectively slated at the full meeting of Sheffield City Council on Wednesday 6th February, as all parties called for an investigation into its activities.
The questions posed by the Messenger in our February 2008 edition were adopted by the council and will now form part of the investigation.
Not that all was plain sailing in the Council Chamber – the arguments were heated. The Liberal Democrats called for an independent investigation, Labour called for an internal one and the Green Party demanded one that would actively involve the community. No-one argued that New Deal could ignore the questions.
Lib-Dem leader, Paul Scriven, opened the debate by condemning the rumours that were going round Burngreave – of contracts to consultants JMJ Group worth over £100,000; that they were split into smaller contracts to avoid financial scrutiny; how people were given jobs without an open recruitment. He said,
“We need an independent report so we can have detailed, honest and transparent decisions.”
His colleague, Councillor Peter Moore, told the council what he had seen in the audit report about New Deal last autumn, saying he had never seen anything like it in his 20 years on the council.”
“People in Burngreave like to criticise a lot.”
Before Labour councillors spoke, the Lord Mayor called for declarations of interest. Several were declared, although no councillors actually stepped down from the debate.
Burngreave Councillor Jackie Drayton (herself a New Deal Board member) spoke passionately after warning fellow councillors, “I’m going to be a bit emotional”. She described the hard work put in to handle the £52 million “in partnership with local people” and stressed that all plans were made by a locally-elected board. She argued it was not right that the council should step in to tell local people what to do. The Board “gets a lot of stick,” she said – “people in Burngreave like to criticise a lot.”
Councillor Steve Jones recited some of New Deal’s achievements but acknowledged, “nobody is resisting” an investigation.
“If there are issues in the audit report, we need to follow them through.”
Objecting to the phrase “flashy new buildings”, Labour leader Jan Wilson stressed that decisions are for the New Deal board, saying, “if the people of Burngreave have decided they want to spend resources on new buildings, that is their decision.”
The Greens – who held the balance of power – used their casting votes to swing the motion in favour of open investigation, with Councillor Jillian Creasy saying they want to look at “the wider questions of the value and direction of Burngreave New Deal.” She said,
“it’s not enough to say there were ‘two bad apples.’ Why aren’t there more people employed from the local community? Why are managers being brought in from outside?”
She also stressed how she wanted “the people of Burngreave to be involved" in accounting to the public.
The final motion passed by Council was a composite motion of parts of the Lib-Dem and Green motions: