Questions to Strategy and Resources Committee March 12th

As we have reported elsewhere the council has tried to duck any action and responsibility for setting a moral climate in this city by referring the petition signed by 7500 people to the Strategy and Resources Committee.

We are sending three questions to Strategy and Resources Committee March 12th 2024:

Question One

As we understand it, Strategy and Resources is the committee charged with debating matters of “significant strategic importance” and for considering “any policy matter not otherwise allocated to a committee.”

In the light of this, we note that the drafting of a statement of unity and solidarity, agreed in full Council on March 6th, has not been referred to a committee per se, but to a “cross-party group”. Our questions relate to that group.

  • When will this group meet?
  • What is the composition of that group to be?

Matters pertaining to the composition of the group:

In a previous cross-party group of three, a decision was taken by two of the three members to fly the Israeli flag on October 10th 2023. Other West Yorkshire Councils chose to fly the peace flag, so discretion was an option.

  • Would it be appropriate to reconvene only this group of three, given a past decision by two of them to adopt a partisan position?
  • Would it be appropriate to include a member who said on March 6th (inter alia)” …Passing a resolution at Sheffield City Council in November didn’t bring about a ceasefire… If you really think that passing a resolution is going to change the situation on the ground, I have to disagree with you.” ?

Does this committee agree that those utterances suggest a lack of understanding of:

  • the central importance of statements of moral leadership to the role of elected representatives?
  • the way that this builds confidence in the electorate that those elected to serve have high moral integrity?

Can we assure petitioners that the composition of the cross-party group will be made up of members who:

  • inspire confidence that they are equal to the task and understand the clear brief of producing a “statement of unity and solidarity with the Palestinian people”
  • Reflect the supportive tone of Councillors’ contributions in the chamber on March 6th?

Question Two

At the full Council meeting on March 6th , the petition signed by some 7,500 people was discussed. After some intense and revealing debate, it was decided to refer the petition to this committee. Petitioners expressed strong concerns about further delays to the Council’s response to this important petition. They had no option but to
contrast the numerous supportive measures, offered without let or hindrance by the Council, to the Ukrainian people, clearly demonstrated on the city Council’s website.

Unnecessary delays will exacerbate concerns about what is seen as the Council’s selective morality when it comes to some sorely oppressed people, in contrast to others, like Ukrainians.

Community cohesion, often referred to as a priority by Council leadership, cannot be achieved by failure to oppose genocide, apartheid or by flagrant double standards on whose lives we value.

This committee now has the weighty responsibility of discussing further the petition. Our questions today require urgent answers which must then be communicated to the large number of petitioners.

  • What is the time frame for this discussion?
  • Will the matter be tabled for the April 17 th meeting, the agenda of which has not yet been set?
  • How will that discussion be structured? E.g. Will the Strategy and Resources committee consider each element of the petition separately and also reach a determination on them separately (as we understood from comments in Full Council ) ?
  • Will the Strategy and Resources Committee undertake to reach a full decision on all the petition’s elements within that meeting

Question Three

I note that this committee is today considering a report recommending a new flag protocol, and that the report contains a number of days which will be marked by specific flags being flown each year. I note the absence from that list of the United Nations Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, marked on November 29th each year.

General Assembly resolution 32/40B, passed in December 1977, introduced the day of solidarity, and the UN has marked the day ever since. The UN resolution also encourages Member states to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the day of solidarity.

Some of you may not be aware that Sheffield City council flew the Palestinian flag on 29th November each year between 1995 and 2000 but has failed to do so since then.

Recently the leader of the Council has reaffirmed that the Council recognises the State of Palestine. If this is to mean anything at all, it is surely time for the Council to commit to fly the Palestinian flag each November 29th. Will this committee agree to do so?