A group of Sheffielders have launched a website to help people compare candidates and vote responsibly in the Sheffield Local Election on May 6th 2021.
Eleanor Holmshaw, one of the founders of whoismycouncillor.co.uk, said: “We are very aware that candidates work really hard to connect with voters, but the way information is being consumed is changing a lot, and so we wanted to create an easy way for candidates to get their information online.
“Our aim isn’t to promote or aid any particular party, but to offer a resource for informed decision-making and critical thinking.”
This year is a particularly interesting one for Sheffield Council, currently, Labour held but they risk losing their majority if they lose more than three seats. The founders of the website expressed that the turnout in local elections is low, with the average for Sheffield in 2019 at 31 per cent – lower than the national average. Nationally, 32 per cent of people surveyed expressed they do not want to be involved ‘at all’ in local decision making.
The website is already making an impact as the engagement they have had with the site so far has been better than what they had “dreamed” of.
“We’ve had great viewing numbers and some lovely messages and comments on social media. What we’d like to see over the coming years is the culture of communicating with voters to become the norm for Sheffield. I’d like to see the council and parties embrace the digital space as part of this, for its wide-reaching, accessible and equitable qualities.”
Eleanor Holmshaw also said that the information they’re putting out online will reach young people of Sheffield in a good way as the city has an average age of 38.9 and two universities. “Young people are interested in politics and decisions are being made that will affect our future.”
They have also taken many measures to promote their website and believe that the past year has shown us how valuable online spaces can be and how the number of people using the internet has surged. “This year there’s no physical hustings and much less doorknocking going on, so we realised there was going to be a huge gap in contact between candidates and voters.”
“Online tools can be used to reach thousands, we turned the website around in about 10 days, but we’re looking forward to consultations and a review of how our site functions for people of all abilities, disabilities and life experience for the next iteration.”
Olivia Blake, Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam also commented on the website: “WhoIsMyCouncillor.co.uk is a valuable new initiative to be developed in Sheffield, which I hope will help make it easier for people to get in touch with their representatives and local election candidates.”
The co-founder Nigel Slack said: “Without this website, the only way to find out who your candidates are and why they are standing is to wait for the ‘select’ information in their publicity or to hold out for an elusive knock on the door by canvassers. Now, with this website, if your candidates choose to get involved, you can get better information to help you choose who to vote for.”