Sheffield residents campaign for beefed up powers for councillors across the city

Sheffield residents are to vote in May over whether their city council should be ran in a different and more democratic way.

In 2018 ‘It’s our city!’ launched a petition to change the way in which Sheffield city council is ran. The petition gained nearly 6000 more signatures than the 20,000 needed to trigger a referendum.

Currently, a ‘strong leader’ model is in place which means 74/84 councillors have hardly any power when it comes to making decisions. The leader choses nine cabinet councillors and they have the majority of the power.

Councillor Douglas Johnson said: “The full council meeting and the scrutiny committees have debates, but they are without purpose as they don’t get to decide anything.  The change to a committee system will mean that all 84 elected councillors have a role in decision-making.”

Ex-deputy leader Olivia Blake resigned from the cabinet in August 2019 following the petition as she said it was clear the people of Sheffield wanted “more democracy”.

A new system should allow councillors to work together more constructively.

Cllr Johnson said “For far too long, we have seen members of the two larger parties shout abuse and insults across the council chamber.”

He added: “There are good ideas coming from members of all parties but the system and the leadership discourages a constructive approach in favour of party-bashing.”

Both the LibDems and Green Party have publicly said they support change. The local Labour Party have not said whether they are for or against the change.

The primary difference with changing the system will be that the full council will have authority. Decisions will be made with a wider range of people involved meaning the city will be better represented.

 

 

Written by Ellie Billingham

Trainee journalist studying at Sheffield University.

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