Switching Sheffield election system would save £150k per year

A voter arriving at the Bents Green, Sheffield, polling station
A voter arriving at the Bents Green, Sheffield, polling station
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Sheffield Council could save £150,000 annually if it moved to an all-out election system every four years.

The money saved by changing from holding local elections three years in a row, followed by a fallow year, would cover the £100,000 saved every year by cutting the number of roads gritted in Sheffield by 94 miles.

It is one of the topics up for discussion at an open session of group Sheffield for Democracy which takes place today.

Vicky Seddon, chairman of the group run by local campaigners, said: “That £150,000 a year could cover the cost of librarians to support facilities that are now being run by volunteers - good use could be made of it.”

The group has found that councillors are reluctant to change the system, saying it keeps members accountable and gives local people an opinion every year.

Saturday’s discussion will also touch on how the scrapping of Sheffield’s community assemblies has affected engagement with the public. The assemblies were axed last year to save £2 million annually.

But some councillors have noted a ‘worsening’ of community engagement since.

The democracy group has also raised concerns that the new arrangements are ‘simply not working’.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities and public health, said all-out elections had been looked at but the last debate two years ago did not spark massive support for change.

Councillors had been working with communities in a ‘broad variety of ways’ since assemblies were scrapped to make sure local area partnerships were responding to issues, he added.

He added: “We believe it is important people are able to elect their local councillors and it is better people have this opportunity every three out of four years. “However, election costs should be reduced as far as possible especially when the council is facing such drastic cuts, whilst ensuring safety and accuracy isn’t compromised.

“If there was demand to move towards all out elections this is something that we would be happy to look at again.”

The open session takes place from 11am to 1pm at St Mary’s Centre, Bramall Lane, today.