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Councillor suspended from job cuts committee: Ruth Mersereau disagreed with a decision taken in her name

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Councillor Ruth Mersereau.

A Green Party councillor has been removed from a Sheffield City Council panel after rejecting a decision made in her name.

Cllr Ruth Mersereau was told in December that she would be removed from the Appeals and Disputes Sub-Committee after expressing disapproval at a decision letter on Council job cuts that she had not agreed to.

"Having heard over seven hours of evidence and witness testimony at the panel meeting, I realised that these catastrophic job losses were not just unnecessary, but would have a devastating impact on planning staff, on the safety of the public and on Sheffield's landscape," Cllr Mersereau said.

It is a bad sign when the administration wants to get rid of experienced staff

Sheffield City Council sent a panel decision letter to trade unions stating that the job cuts would go ahead. It stated: "The panel resolved that...there is a need for meaningful discussions between the parties in order to share information and to seek to find areas of agreement."

It went on to say that the panel would reconvene to "consider any areas of continued disagreement and to seek resolution of any differences."

Cllr Mersereau says she had not consented to this letter and requested that the Council retract it.

When she did not receive a response from the Council, she communicated her position to the trade unions. She was then told by the Council that she would no longer be permitted to take part in Appeals and Disputes Sub-Committee hearings as a panel member.

In an email seen by Now Then outlining the decision, the Council said that her removal was justified because she addressed a communication directly to trade unions and determined the outcome of the collective dispute before hearing the evidence in full.

Cllr Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green group, said: "It is a bad sign when the administration wants to get rid of experienced staff and divert more resources to supporting major commercial developers at the expense of smaller businesses, householders, disabled people and the general public. It is worse still when council processes are manipulated to thwart the decisions of elected members that do not sit well with the administration."

Trade unions GMB, Unison and Unite lodged the dispute on behalf of staff at the Council whose jobs are at risk.

Sheffield values its heritage assets as well as good design

The proposed job cuts are set to affect specialist planning staff, including those working on heritage conservation.

Cllr Bob Johnson, cabinet member for Transport and Sustainability at Sheffield City Council, said: "Sheffield values its heritage assets as well as good design, and the Council will continue to ensure that these matters are weighed appropriately in future proposals for new development in the city."

He also highlighted that ten years of austerity were a driving factor behind the cuts.

Cllr Mersereau, however, said in her letter to the unions that council management "declined to provide adequate evidence of a business case in support of the proposal to make workers redundant."

One of the Appeals and Collective Disputes Sub-Committee's main roles is to "establish... sub-panels as appropriate to undertake the hearing or determination of matters relating to the discipline and dismissal of staff... and disputes between the Council and its employees."

Cllr Mersereau told Now Then that there would be updates on the disputes process soon, but as of yet she is still barred from taking part.

Jo Kamal

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