What do Councillors do all day? — Cliff Woodcraft — 21st Jan 2019

The title of this talk was in the form of a ques­tion which I could have partly answered before the meet­ing, having watched our Lib Dem coun­cil­lor Cliff Woodcraft trudging round the neigh­bour­hood in all weath­ers, at all hours, deliv­er­ing party polit­ical flyers and news­let­ters.

Whatever your polit­ical per­sua­sion, there could be no doubt­ing this man’s dogged determ­in­a­tion, but of course there is much more to being a coun­cil­lor than doing leaf­let drops.

Cllr Cliff Woodcraft

Cliff has been one of our three Fulwood coun­cil­lors since 2013. With 28 wards, Sheffield City Council is made up of 84 rep­res­ent­at­ives – 53 Labour, 22 Liberal Democrats, six Green Party and three UKIP mem­bers. He is deputy chair of the Children, Young People and Family Support Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee, and also a member of the Licensing Committee, Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, and Planning and Highways Committee. He has an attend­ance record of 88.5 per cent.

Cliff showed us a photo shoot of him and a group of Lib Dem col­leagues out­side the threatened Broomhill Library, where a passing local voter asked: “Why aren’t you at the coun­cil, debat­ing this?” Cliff explained that only around one day a month was spent in the coun­cil cham­ber at the Town Hall, and most of his time – for which he receives a sti­pend of £11,000 a year – is spent deal­ing with issues in the local com­munity.

Sheffield Town Hall

A full meet­ing of the coun­cil can be split into four cat­egor­ies – peti­tions from the public, ques­tions from the public, ques­tions from coun­cil­lors and debates. If a peti­tion regard­ing a local issue receives 5,000 sig­na­tures or more, it auto­mat­ic­ally qual­i­fies for a half-hour debate. If the busi­ness of the meet­ing over­runs, items coming towards the end of the meet­ing are voted on without being debated.

Sheffield City Council is a big busi­ness, with a budget for 2018–19 of £1,344 mil­lion. Education accounts for £319 mil­lion and adult social care for £229 mil­lion, while the cost of bor­row­ing alone is a stag­ger­ing £43 mil­lion a year, part of that down to the fact that we are still paying for the 1991 World Student Games.

Cliff did not pull his punches when it came to the city’s fin­an­cial affairs, describ­ing the Town Hall exten­sion which was built in 1977 and demol­ished 25 years later as “a waste of money and resources.”

He is proud of Sheffield’s record in keep­ing fam­il­ies together through the efforts of the Children, Young People and Family Support com­mit­tee. “We have a better record than most coun­cils,” he said.

Main coun­cil cham­ber

Day to day mat­ters which the Licensing Committee has to over­see include taxis, alco­hol and late-night enter­tain­ment, street trad­ing, food regis­tra­tion, animal wel­fare, char­ity, gambling and sexual enter­tain­ment. “If there is no objec­tion to a pro­posal, then it will be handled by a case officer, but if there is an objec­tion there would be a coun­cil debate,” he explained.

On Planning and Highways, reas­ons for turn­ing down plan­ning applic­a­tions include over­de­vel­op­ment, lack of park­ing, pri­vacy and poten­tial dis­turb­ance.

Cliff engages with his local voters through meet­ings, can­vassing, sur­veys, let­ters and leaf­lets. He is not a fan of sur­ger­ies – “If people have an issue, they will con­tact us,” he says. “There is no need to wait for a monthly sur­gery. I aim to see people within a couple of days.”

If you take that as an invit­a­tion, Cliff’s con­tact details (and these are all in the public domain) are Cllr Cliff Woodcraft, Sheffield City Council, Town Hall, Pinstone Street, Sheffield S1 2HH. E-mail: cliff.woodcraft@sheffield.gov.uk. Phone: 0114 230 3627.