Sheffield South East Connect Survey 2021
It can hardly be said that it has been a quiet year!
Since October 2020 when I launched this survey for the first time we have endured the worst period of the Covid-19 pandemic, then returned out of lockdown again, to now, where we face fuel and HGV shortages as we enter what will be a very difficult winter for many. As a result we are expecting an increase in cases around universal credit, cost of living and supply issues which will continue for a prolonged period over several months.
Throughout this last year my office and I have been working hard, and this is an opportunity to reflect on that work and update constituents on what I have been up to in the constituency as well as in Parliament.
In the Constituency
Since last October my office has dealt with over 5000 constituents. These have been on everything from national policy issues, local environmental concerns to issues with Government departments and businesses. Some of these cases are relatively straightforward, while others can take considerable time trying to resolve, even running for several years.
This sort of work is the bread and butter of any MP’s office, but it has dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic. With the figures from the past year it means my office have dealt with 100 constituents every week. This increase in casework really reflects the severity of cuts to public services and local authorities since 2010.
Often this work involves linking up different groups, organisations and departments, then advocating on my constituents behalf. It also requires us to do in depth research on policy in order to find the correct process to follow, or review of current policy.
I am proud of the work we have done despite the additional pressures and unprecedented situation we have faced, and the individuals’ casework remains the more important to my work, but also the most enjoyable part of the job.
In addition to casework, in Sheffield South East itself I have had hundreds of meetings since last October. These have been with councillors to constituents, businesses to NHS doctors. Some of these are regular meetings, such as with the Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (the body responsible for administering primary care, GP’s and health centres in Sheffield) and council members, often over Zoom, but fortunately more recently in person. Others on the other hand are to deal with particular issues as and when they emerge and can see me travel all over the constituency and Sheffield to attend.
Certain issues in particular were raised in last year’s survey and I have been taking on board these concerns from constituents and making them a priority in my work. First of all, with regards to speeding, I have been working with the police and getting them to come out on action days for particular areas, and even managed to attend some of them alongside them to understand their work and the pressures they are under. These action days have been really successful and I hope they continue this work going forward into next year. Additionally I have been working with Councillor Tony Downing and the Police and Crime Commissioner to set up a speeding review for Mosborough. This is now being set up behind the scenes, and will hopefully provide a democratic and transparent way forward for residents also to get involved, where, collectively, solutions to the current speeding in the area can be found.
Another concern constituents had was the city centre, I therefore prioritised any potential funding we could get to help develop the area. As a result I was involved in a grant bid by Sheffield City Council that secured over £15 million in helping improve Fargate which will help redevelop the area. Similarly I worked on the Attercliffe levelling up bid that would transform the area with a regeneration programme sorely needed. Currently £800,000 has been provided at this initial stage to start developing plans. This will hopefully also mean that the Council will be forced to build on fewer green field sites as this type of land is prepared for housing and building development. Finally relating to investment, I was able to revive the deal for Castings Technology International to operate in the area, bringing jobs and millions of pounds worth in investment.
Most recently I also helped secure funding for Charnock BMX site which will help re-tarmac the site, securing its future for years to come. More than ever with cuts to youth services this venue provides a safe and active way for young people to get outside and form a hobby for life.
While I have been focusing on the Government’s planning reform in Parliament, I have also been challenging and opposing the consequences of the current system in the constituency. This has chiefly been in the incredibly poorly thought out proposal made by Avant Homes for Owlthorpe Fields. We obviously face a housing crisis, but the Government cannot force through housing developments without the participation of local authorities and residents it will affect first and foremost.
Transport, particularly public transport was something very important to constituents, and I have been focusing on both rail and buses within Sheffield. On the former I have been involved in the bid to reopen the Chesterfield to Sheffield line, which would run through Sheffield South East, and include investment in Beighton Station, additionally I have also managed to secure commitments to invest in Woodhouse and Darnall Stations should this bid be successful. Before this year I was also chair of the major bus review for South Yorkshire that will form the bedrock for the next South Yorkshire Region Mayor to hopefully build from and advance a public bus system that is fit for purpose and serves the users first and foremost.
As Chair of the Select Committee on Housing, Communities and Local Government I spend a lot of my time in Westminster scrutinising policy around these key areas, and taking evidence from experts, Government Ministers and other stakeholders. Over the last year we have published seven reports, covering the planning system, local authority funding, the ongoing cladding scandal and the blight of homelessness. In my last survey constituents rightly pointed out housing and local government services as two of their biggest priorities, and I believe these are reflected in the Select Committees work.
As just one more in-depth example, in our report into local government funding we reviewed the current funding model, and made several recommendations such as the need for multi-year settlements for local authorities, to provide them with financial certainty, which in turn will empower councils to be more bold, knowing their medium financial future is secure.
In another instance the Select Committee work forced the Government to accept the Select Committee’s calls for reforms to ground rent and a common hold council, and ultimately the leasehold system which I have had a huge number of complaints about from constituents.
For a full breakdown of the all the publications the Select Committee has made over the last year click here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/housing-communities-and-local-government-committee/publications/reports-responses/?SearchTerm=&DateFrom=01%2F10%2F2020&DateTo=28%2F09%2F2021&SessionId=
I was also successful at pressuring the Government to make available to local authorities the information on the vaccine roll out information. It was shocking that this was not already happening but now this is available it allowed a better strategy at a local level to reach those who had not taken up the vaccine, and help push up the vaccination rate. I also raised the issue of pet theft with the Government, which has clearly been a particular issue in the constituency since lockdown, and while stubborn at first it now looks like the Government have acknowledged this from my representations and we will see some improvement to the current criminal system with regards to pet thefts.
I also maintain my position in several All-Party Parliamentary Groups including City Regions Transport and devolution to keep up to date with all the developments in these sectors that will be fundamental building blocks to building back from austerity and the pandemic, as well as cornerstones in the fight against climate change. I also remain involved with the APPG’s on Football, the Netherlands and Somaliland.
Hopefully this provides a snapshot of some of the work I have been doing over the year, and you can see how I have been standing up for constituents. It always remains the case that my office will do whatever we can to help, and while we may not always be successful, we will try our utmost to represent constituents concerns to whomever needs to hear them.
If you enjoyed this update I created a monthly newsletter as a direct result of the last South East Connect survey at the beginning of this year. It has been really successful and provided a great way to let constituents know what I have been up to, and also an opportunity for them to raise their feedback and concerns year round. If you haven’t already signed up you can do so here: https://www.sheffieldsoutheastlabour.org.uk/2021/03/02/clive-betts-mp-for-sheffield-south-east/
To participate in this years survey please click on the link below