Sheffield City Council forced to postpone meeting - because venue is booked for university graduation

Sheffield Council has postponed next week’s full council meeting because it cannot find a venue in time.

The biggest meeting of the month – in which members of the public question city leaders and all 84 councillors debate key issues and make important decisions – has been postponed a week before it was due to take place.

Full council was in the city’s calendar for Wednesday, November 3 but now dozens of attendees will have to agree a new date and venue.

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In a special co-operative executive meeting, Coun Terry Fox, leader of the council, said: “There will be a delay to full council, it will not be on the first Wednesday of November.

A socially distanced council meeting at Ponds Forge

“We are trying to get a date out there as soon as possible with a venue accordingly. I understand that the whips have met today to make a decision on that. So hopefully we will see each other as soon as.”

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The council held meetings virtually throughout the height of Covid-19 but was ordered by the Government to return to in-person meetings earlier this year.

Instead of the Town Hall council chamber, where full council was held before Covid-19, the council decided to move its biggest monthly meeting to Ponds Forge International Sports Centre so attendees could be socially distanced.

The authority considered Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United football grounds, St Mary’s Church, the Salvation Army, the English Institute of Sport and the Quaker Meeting House but said they were unsuitable.

The total cost of holding full council at Ponds Forge – which is run by Sheffield City Trust (SCT), whose main funder is the council – between May and September was £42,927.

SCT said Ponds Forge was being used for Sheffield Hallam University graduations next week. Opposition said they were “extremely frustrated” by the postponement.

Councillor Penny Baker, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “It was very foreseeable that the council would still need to be holding Covid-safe meetings through the winter, yet there was a failure to prepare for this and book a room big enough to do so.

“This is also a failure on the part of the Conservative Government who have, since May, been insisting we hold meetings in person rather than continuing to do so online as so many people have done throughout the pandemic.

"This is an extremely short-sighted political choice on their part. Of course, we want to be holding meetings in person as we have always previously done, but we are still in the pandemic, and we need to act in a safe and sensible way.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “The Labour-Green led council must now get on and book somewhere for us to hold our council meeting as soon as possible.

“The full council meetings are an important part of our local democratic process which allow for the questioning and scrutiny of the council. We need to be able to do this if we want to be able to hold the council’s leaders to account and demand better for Sheffielders.”