Birley Ward Labour Interviews Councillor Karen McGowan

Continuing the Councillor interviews, today Councillor Karen McGowan has answered a few questions on her motivations for becoming a Councillor, what she’s most proud of achieving and how local people can get involved in community activities.

Karen McGowan
Birley Ward Labour Councillor

 

Growing up in the Birley area, Karen has been a Birley Ward Councillor since 2010. The first question we put to her was what motivated her to become a Councillor?

 

I’ve been a member of the Labour Party since the 1980’s and have been active within the community for as long as I can remember with things such as being a school governor at Birley Learning Community and a member of the Birley Health Centre Patient focus Group.

 

It was Councillor Bryan Lodge who suggested the idea of becoming a Councillor. I was hesitant at first, but after shadowing other Councillors I realised I had the passion to help make a positive difference, and if being a Councillor will help me in achieving this, then it was something I felt I should get involved in. Although if you had told me 10 years ago I’d be entering my 5th year as a Councillor I wouldn’t have believed you.

 

In you time as a Councillor, what have been your proudest moments?

 

Serving my local community is something I’m extremely proud of. I’m really passionate about making it the best place to live and work for everyone.

 

The development of the Hackenthorpe Skate Park was a great success. We listened to all the residents and came up with a solution that’s worked for everyone. It’s given the local youth something they wanted and has been extremely popular so far.

 

Working with local volunteers is also something I’m always proud of, especially recently with volunteers who are running both the Frecheville and Gleadless libraries. I’ve found it a real privilege to help support such dedicated and hardworking residents who are making our areas better.

 

Additionally, the amount of litter around is something I don’t like to see, and so in response to resident concerns, the Birley Blitz litter-picking events were organised and so far these have been brilliant. It’s been a great way to get others involved and really make an immediate difference to how our streets look and feel.

 

How do you fit all the council duties around your day-to-day job and family?

 

It is difficult to manage as I have responsibilities just like everyone else. As well as being a Councillor I have a husband and daughter and work for the University of Sheffield 3 days a week. I’m very lucky in that my family are hugely supportive, as it’s them that my Councillor duties impact upon most as I’m often out both evenings and weekends meeting residents, at council meetings, or getting involved in local events and activities.

 

How can members of the local community get involved?

 

They can let me, Bryan or Denise (fellow local Councillors) know of any issue that’s important to them in our community. Alternatively, they can get directly involved in any existing community group we have such as Friends of Charnock Recreation Ground, Friends of Frecheville Park & Pond, Friends of Dykes Vale Park, volunteering at Frecheville or Gleadless library or even by simply buying and donating books from the libraries. There are already a lot of local people making a huge difference to our local community and I’m always keen to help others the best I can.

 

And finally, what are your main hobbies outside of the council?

 

I enjoy swimming and also like to read whenever I can – I’m a big Nora Roberts fan.

Birley Ward Labour Interviews Councillor Denise Fox

Over the coming weeks your Birley Ward Labour Party will be conducting interviews with local Councillors so that we can get to know them better and find out what motivates them to get involved with community issues.

 

First, Denise Fox was interviewed.

Councillor Denise Fox
Councillor Denise Fox

 

Denise, why did you first want to become a Councillor?

 

I am passionate about helping community projects succeed. I also want to make things fairer for residents and help reduce inequality. Starting as a Trade Union representative, becoming a Councillor was the natural extension of the work I was already doing.

 

Jan Wilson, the leader of the Sheffield Council at the time, first approached me about standing; she said ‘we need strong women in our party’, words which I took as a compliment and that have stuck with me ever since.

 

What’s been your best moment as a Councillor?

 

When the new houses on Silkstone Road were completed. I believe in quality housing for everyone. It was a struggle to get that far but was really worth it when the work was done and local residents could move in.

 

I also love getting local school children involved with playing and singing music, I’m part of a music hub board which organises a concert at City Hall every year, I love watching them and it always brings a tear to my eye!

 

Do you have any hobbies?

 

Spending time with my family is a always a favourite pastime of mine, especially my grandchildren. I have also recently discovered running, which I’m really enjoying. It all started last year when I decided to enter the Great Yorkshire 10k Race for a local charity.

Having never run before I quickly realised I only had 10 weeks to get myself ready, which meant learning everything from scratch. It was hard work but I’m very proud to have completed it – and I’m now hooked and love running!

 

Part two of the interview with Denise will follow where we discuss her views on Sheffield, the Labour Party and balancing family life with serving the community.

Frecheville Trees of Remembrance

A poignat and moving service to re dedicate the Trees of Remembrance on Heathfield Road , Frecheville was attended by over a 100 people last Saturday (15/3/14) including veterans, cadets and members of the local community. Nineteen trees were planted in memory of the nineteen Frecheville servicemen who gave their lives during the Second World War and there used to be a small plaque at the base of each tree but these disappeared many years ago. Cllr Bryan Lodge has been investigating some form of replacement plaque for some time and is pleased to have now secured funding to do this. With the support of his fellow Birley Councillors, Cllrs Karen McGowan and Denise Fox, funding has been identified to produce and site an interpretation board close to the trees to explain why the trees were planted.  It is also hoped to replace three trees in due course as there are currently only sixteen trees remaining.“There’s a whole generation that’s grown up without any knowledge of the significance of the trees and now is an appropriate time to redress this. I remember the Royal British Legion organised a parade to St Cyprian’s Church and the laying of wreaths afterwards at the trees on Remembrance Sunday each year and I used to take part as a Scout, along with members of the Boys Brigade, Guides and Brownies, and many members of the local community.   Sadly the parades ceased some years ago as membership dwindled within the Royal British Legion.  I’m extremely pleased that we have secured the funding and have worked with officers of the Council and the local Veteran’s Association on the wording. It was great to see so many people there including ex servicemen and women, Cadets and pupils from Birley Community College”.

Cllr Fox, Lodge and McGowan with local resident and veteran Bill Carlin

This installation of the interpretation board also ties in with the proposals of local resident and veteran Bill Carlin, seen in the photo with Cllrs McGowan, Fox and Lodge,  for a new war memorial to be built within the boundaries of the Frecheville Park and Pond. “When we were looking at getting the board installed, we became aware of Bill’s aspiration and felt that this complemented his wish. It’s fitting that everyone passing by will now be aware of the significance of the trees, maybe calling to mind the sacrifice shown by local families”.Bill is well on the way to raise the funding needed for the new war memorial and it is hoped that work will enable the new memorial to be officially unveiled in the near future.

Congratulations Mike!

Mike DrabbleBirley Labour Party Chair, Mike Drabble, has been  successful in winning the Arbourthorne by election. Cllr Drabble fills the vacant seat on Sheffield City Council following the death last year of popular councillor, Cllr John Robson. John will be a hard act to follow but we’re sure that Mike is up to it.

Congratulations Mike!

20mph Zone For Charnock

Charnock 20mph zoneFormal consultation on the Charnock Estate 20mph zone begins this week with the distribution to all homes in the area of information about the proposals. Delivery will take place between the 15th – 17th May and asks for comments back to the council by 7th June. In addition to the proposed 20mph limit throughout the estate, measures to improve safety around the school are to be introduced with tougher controls on vehicles parking on the zig zag lines.

Look out for your copy of the leaflet coming through your door. If you have any comments or concerns, please feed these in to the consultation, through the details on the form.

Further information regarding 20mph zones can be found by clicking on the following link: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/SCC-Home/roads/works/schemes/new-20-mph-speed-limits

A Fair Deal For Sheffield

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There are just ten days left for you to add your signature to The People’s Petition for a Fair Deal For Sheffield. Signatures from the online petition will be collated with the thousands of signatures already collected.

On Tuesday May 14th a delegation of Sheffield’s political, faith and community leaders will take the Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign to London. The delegation, including the Bishop of Sheffield and Bishop of Hallam, will hand in the Fair Deal for Sheffield petition to the Prime Minister at Number 10 Downing Street.
The Fair Deal campaign was launched earlier in the year by Sheffield’s faith leaders, the voluntary and community sector, trade unions and local politicians to highlight the unfairness of the Government’s cuts on Sheffield, compared to wealthier areas which are receiving much lower reductions in funding. Thousands of Sheffielders have signed the petition to show their concern and anger about the Government’s unfair cuts, and to call on
the Government to give fair funding to Sheffield and South Yorkshire.

Cllr Julie Dore, who will lead the delegation, said:
“Sheffield has borne the brunt of this Government’s unfair cuts and I think local people believe it is wrong that Sheffield Council is receiving devastating cuts whilst some of the wealthiest areas of the country receive almost no cuts at all.
“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved and hopefully the strength of force behind the campaign which has included people from a wide range of sectors across the city will make the Government sit up and take notice of the impact that the cuts are having in Sheffield, when so far our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.”
Paul Blomfield MP, who raised the campaign in Parliament, said:
“Churches and mosques, community groups and trade unions, have come together with thousands of Sheffielders to raise their voice about the unfairness of the cuts on our city and on people’s lives. You only have to read some of the comments from those who signed the petition. Community services are closing, jobs are going and some of the most vulnerable people are facing real hardship. And it will get worse unless the Government listen to the people of Sheffield, change course and allocate funding fairly. It’s not right that parts of the country, far wealthier than Sheffield, are only seeing minor budget reductions. Unless there’s a change, Sheffield’s cuts will reach £200 per person by 2015 – over 5 times the amount taken away from wealthy areas like Windsor, Guildford, and Wokingham in the south of England.”

The Sheffield delegation who will travel to London to hand in the petition will
be:
Cllr Julie Dore – Leader, Sheffield City Council
The Rt Revd Steven Croft- the Anglican Bishop of Sheffield
The Rt Revd John Rawsthorne – the Catholic Bishop of Hallam
Abtisam Mohammed- Chair, Sheffield Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network
Sue White – Chief Executive, Voluntary Action Sheffield
Mohammed Aslam – Chairman of the Madina Mosque
And they will be joined by Sheffield Members of Parliament at the hand-in.

The Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign was endorsed by Sheffield City Council at the Full Council meeting on March 1st and has also received the backing of a wide range of local organisations, charities, churches and individuals. Supporters include Voluntary Action Sheffield; the Third Sector Assembly; Sheffield LINK; Church Army; Sheffield Wildlife Trust; Sheffield University Students Union; Sheffield Hallam University Students Union; Yorkshire and the Humber TUC; the trade unions Unite, Unison and the GMB; and the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright.

For more information, visit the Fair Deal For Sheffield Website

http://afairdealforsheffield.com

The Women of Steel Statue Appeal

women of steelLocal Birley Ward Councillor Karen McGowan joined Sheffield’s Labour Leader Julie Dore and other Labour Councillors to raise money for a statue for our Women of Steel. They took part in The Star Walk held at Hillsborough Park on 28 April 2013.

This special group of Sheffield women worked exceptionally hard in the steel factories and played a vital role in the war effort during both World Wars. By the end of the war, instead of being celebrated and congratulated, the women were simply dismissed from the factories as the men returned from war to work. The Women of Steel returned back to their normal lives of running homes and raising children and for years their outstanding effort went unrecognised, until now…

Councillor Karen McGowan said “These women are now in their late 80s, 90s and even 100s, and it was great that some of them were able to join us in Hillsborough Park. We had a very enjoyable morning and the weather stayed on our side as well. Thank you to all those who took part, also The Star newspaper and Sheffield City Council for their support”

If you want to donate or to get involved please visit https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/planning-and-city-development/urban-design–conservation/public-art/women-of-steel/fundraising.html

Tories In Sheffield On A Different Planet!

George Osbourne demonstrates his take on efficiencies!
George Osbourne demonstrates his take on efficiencies!

Vonny Watts,  Deputy Chair of the Conservatives in Sheffield, shows just how out of touch the Tories are with the majority of people across Sheffield.

Speaking on Radio Sheffield this morning, Vonny asked that we talk of “..efficiencies not cuts, because that’s what they are…” So does Vonny consider the cuts to Sheffield’s budgets as ‘efficiency savings’? Where has Vonny been for the last few months? Has she not heard the cries on anguish from across the City as people and groups see the impact of cuts to their communities and services? Does she really think that the decision to reduce the council’s budget by £140m over the last two years and a further £50m for the forthcoming financial year is based on ‘efficiencies’? 

Her government, propped up by Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, have brutally cut the sum allocated to Sheffield that means we are having to curtail spending across all services. They have slashed over £7m from the Early Intervention Grant that supported Children’s Centres, Child Care and Youth Activities;  they have cut over £5m of funding for Council Tax supporthitting low income families  and they have introduced the horrendous ‘Bedroom Tax’ that penalises people for wanting to say in the family home they’ve lived in for years!  Staggeringly, inspite of these  attacks on low income families, Vonny went on to proclaim that the Tories are “the compassionate party”!

And lets not forget, these ‘efficiencies’ that Sheffield is facing come at the same time that Vonny’s friends in London are introducing a £100k tax cut for millionaires.  But hey, we’re all in it together!

Clegg Corrected By Council Chief Exec Over False Claims

Nick Clegg faces rebuke from Sheffield City Council
Nick Clegg faces rebuke from Sheffield City Council

Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been delivered an embarassing letter by Sheffield City Council’s independent Chief Executive, spelling out the untruths he has recently made about the council’s budget.

In recent weeks Mr Clegg has been caught misinterpreting Sheffield City Council finances in a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the huge cuts that his Government are making to Sheffield. Sheffield City Council has to save £50 million next year, in addition to the £140 million it has had to cut over the past two years, whilst some of the wealthiest areas in the country receive almost no cuts at all.

At its February meeting Sheffield City Council asked the Council’s Chief Executive to write to Nick Clegg correcting inaccurate claims he has made on a number of issues.

The letter corrects Nick Clegg’s inaccurate claims around the council’s work to save money on accommodation costs and essential Town Hall maintenance. The letter also points out that contrary to his claims, Sheffield City Council has the lowest useable reserves of any large local authority in England and also corrects incorrect Lib Dem claims on consultant spending.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said:

“It is a damning indictment of the untruths that Nick Clegg has been telling that we have had to ask the Chief Executive to write to him to correct the misinformation that he has been putting out in recent weeks.

“The fact is that across the country cities like Sheffield are being forced to make unprecedented reductions to services because of the massive cuts that as Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is responsible for. At the same time as we are being forced to make these cuts some of the wealthiest areas of the country are receiving almost no cuts at all. Instead of continuing to try to mislead the people of Sheffield about council spending Mr Clegg should stand up to the Tories and tell them to give Sheffield a fair deal.”

HORSEMEAT ALERT AND SCHOOL MEALS

Many parents and carers may be worried about the recent news stories regarding horsemeat in pre-prepared meals. The following is the Sheffield City Council statement (dated 11 May 2013) on this issue.

Jayne Ludlam, Executive Director for Children, Young People and Families, Sheffield City Council, said:

“Under our contract with Taylor Shaw, very little pre-prepared food is used in the preparation of school meals. Dishes are made from fresh meat and supplies brought in two or three times a week to make sure that there is as little frozen meat product as possible. Dishes such as Lasagne and Meat and Potato Pie are always made by the cooks themselves to agreed recipes. The service is also regularly monitored to make sure this is carried out to the council’s expectations.

“Most of the meat used in school meals in Sheffield is provided by Underwoods Meats of Rotherham and only British beef is used. Burgers and sausages are provided by Brakes, which has no connections with any of the companies involved so far. All suppliers are complying with the Food Standards Agency’s deadline to have tested all beef products by Friday 15 February. Taylor Shaw are keeping us informed of all developments.”

Statement from Taylor Shaw (School Meals’ contractor)

“As a Company we take the provenance of our products very seriously. All our suppliers are required to undertake a rigorous due diligence process to ensure that all products are traceable and from reliable sources. The fact that we produce the majority of our meals from fresh ingredients supplied by UK butchers is reassurance as we are not using meat sourced from abroad.

“The latest information regarding cross contamination of meat has given rise to the need for additional vigilance, although as a company we do not use any of the products mentioned or indeed take product from the named manufacturers. It should be stressed that there are no hygiene or safety issues arising from the recent issues although the matter is extremely disturbing for religious compliance.

“All our halal meat comes from recognised suppliers within the relevant communities and as such we would expect the religious observance to be excellent. We have been in touch with all our meat suppliers and have spoken to them to ensure that they are complying with the Food Standards Agency deadline to have tested all beef products by Friday 15th Feb to ensure that the meat is of the highest quality and does not contain any cross-contamination. We have also asked our suppliers to respond to us as well with the findings. We will continue to be vigilant and review our processes so that if changes are required in our checks then these can be accommodated.”

Further Joint statement on behalf of Sheffield City Council and Taylor Shaw Ltd (15/2/2013):
“There is a national maximum level of prepared meat products that can be used on menus in schools, but the Sheffield specification is even stricter, which we test thoroughly and regularly. The majority of food from Taylor Shaw is prepared fresh on site each day and only 6 per cent of meals are pre-prepared.

“Although we have been given assurances by our suppliers about the provenance of the pre-prepared food, we take the safety of the young people in our schools very seriously. In light of the ongoing revelations of illegal activity by unscrupulous people regarding the contamination of processed meat products this week, as a precaution we have taken the joint decision to suspend the use of all processed meat products in all school meals with immediate effect.”

“We hope that this will reassure parents and carers who may have any reservations about their children’s school meals.”

“We are aware that the Food Standards Agency are carrying out urgent investigations into meat suppliers nationally and we will monitor any feedback from their investigations before considering the re-introduction of any processed meat products in our school meals, in the future.”

“We would advise all schools who do not have Taylor Shaw as their school meals contractor to adopt this decision.”

Nick Clegg and Lib Dems deliberate attempt to mislead the Sheffield public.

There’ve been so many stories in the media recently regarding the Council’s reserves that you’d think that Mr Clegg and his Lib Dem party in Sheffield would have checked their facts before launching in to their pathetic claims that Sheffield is sitting on huge reserves that could be used to protect front line services. In an open letter, Nick claims that Sheffield has £167m reserves, a figure he has taken from the Council’s ‘statement of accounts’ that has a line labelled ‘useable reserves’. What he conveniently failed to say was that many of these are earmarked to cover committed expenditure, some as the result of national legislation.  For example, it includes £26 million that we are looking after for, and belonging to, Sheffield’s schools; £25 million that can only be spent on council housing; and, £57 million that is committed to our ‘capital programme’ – the really big projects that span a number of years like rebuilding schools, new road schemes, major building repairs and so on. Government rules are very clear that we cannot spend this money on services. Other committed reserves for major capital projects, such as ‘Streetsahead’ of around £48million leave a true ‘useable reserves’ figure of around £11million. Now we could, in theory, use this money to support services, but would that be wise? To put this in context, when Sheffield was devastated by flooding a few years ago, the council spent over £7million that wasn’t recoverable from government compensation schemes; recent bad winters have seen an additional spend of over £2millon to support measures across the council. Our reserves are in fact equivalent to a household that spends £20,000 per year and keeps just £170 in case of emergencies. It makes sense to keep some cash back ‘just in case’.

Leader of the Lib Dems in Sheffield, Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed, seems equally inclines to mislead the public as he too has indicated that he would use reserves to support next year’s budget. Is this a case of misrepresentation of the facts, or an attempt to mislead the public? Or maybe it’s more an indication of just how little Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in Sheffield understand about economic and accounting procedures. Time for Nick and Shaffaq to apologise, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Sheffield Lib Dems Retract Weekly Bin Collection Pledge

Anders Hanson: Perpetually Confused About Bins. Poor Man.
Anders Hanson: Perpetually Confused About Bins. Poor Man.

Sheffield Lib Dems made a great song and dance about alternate week bin collections upon their introduction, which is unsurprising since they haven’t got much else to talk about (unless you count their remorseless attacks on public services as part of the Coalition – wonder why they’d want to avoid that subject?). According to Lib Dem Councillor Anders Hanson, fortnightly bin collections were something to be fought tooth and nail: indeed, he promised to ‘mercilessly attack’ the Council for moving to fortnightly collections

But not only are Sheffield Lib Dems now dropping their opposition to alternate week collections… they’re doing it on the quiet! Last week, without publicity they submitted a motion to December’s Full Council meeting saying: “it would now be extremely difficult to revert back to weekly black bin collections”. In other words, Sheffield Lib Dems’ thundering opposition to fortnightly collections has ended with a whimper; they won’t include funding for weekly collections in their proposed budget for next year.

But this flip-flopping isn’t new. Earlier this year the hapless Mr. Hanson let the cat out of the bag with his comments in some obscure publication called Lib Dem Voice: “I think it has now become almost impossible politically to introduce new fortnightly bin collections as both the opposition and the press will mercilessly attack anyone who does it. … However most people are happy with fortnightly collections when they get used to it.”

So it’s clear that Sheffield Lib Dems have been publically campaigning against fortnightly collections while admitting in their barely read in-house magazine that that the public have no problem with them! The only conclusion to draw from this is that their opposition was nothing more than cynical political opportunism, intended to distract Sheffielders from the damage their Tory and Lib Dem colleagues in Westminster are doing to our city.

An exasperated Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene said:

“The Lib Dems are the only party to break their promises even when they’re in opposition. It now looks like they have finally accepted that we had no other option but to move to alternate week collection due to the massive cuts Nick Clegg and the Tory Government are imposing on the council.
 
“Their campaign against alternate week collections has been merciless and politically motivated, people can see through that. The Lib Dems should apologise to the people of Sheffield for making false promises yet again, they have a lot of questions to answer
 
“With further cuts coming from their Autumn Statement it’s about time the Lib Dems started campaigning against the cuts that will affect the people of Sheffield. It is wrong that they continue stand up for their government’s decisions instead of standing up for Sheffield.”