Sheffield Council approved the proposal to take over New Deal’s buildings, at its Cabinet meeting on 22nd December.
At the Cabinet meeting were the 8 senior Lib-Dem Councillors who make the decisions for the council.
First the meeting started with public questions: Ronnie Lewin introduced himself to the Cabinet as the Chair of Burngreave New Deal. He said he wanted to make a general point about the support – or lack of it – from the Council to members of the New Deal board.
He pointed out that, despite now approaching insolvency, the board had been working on a succession strategy for the last 3 years. He said they had been working hard to avoid a liability for Sheffield council tax payers but felt there simply hadn’t been adequate support from the council.
Addressing Councillor Scriven directly, he said,
“Paul, you’ve been on our board.”
Councillor Colin Ross, also a member of the Cabinet, had also joined the New Deal board.
Ronnie continued by saying he thought the current situation “could have been avoided,” but accepted “we’re all responsible on the board.”
Too much too fast
In reply, Councillor Paul Scriven gave his opinion that the issues now hadn’t arisen in the last three years but had been about “spending too much money too fast” in the past. He blamed the previous management for the money spent on buildings.
He went on to reject allegations that the Council had not supported New Deal and said that council officers had spent “hundreds, if not tens of thousands of hours of officer time” working on New Deal. But, he referred again to previous decisions when he said,
“You are now dealing with a catch-up situation. That clearly wasn’t going to work.”
The Council's plans
Joe Horobin, the Council’s Neighbourhood Renewal and Partnerships Service, then presented the Council’s report on New Deal. The council is required to guarantee the pensions of the New Deal employees. As far as the community is concerned, the council will work with New Deal to transfer the buildings into its ownership and will invest the “limited amount” necessary to prevent closure of the buildings. This will avoid the council paying the £10 million back to the Government to compensate for the purchase price of the buildings – Sorby House, the Vestry Hall and Forum House.
In her report, her commitment was for “local buildings to be protected – to provide benefits to the local community”. The report was endorsed by Councillors.