Debate change plan ‘unhelpful for democracy’

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CHANGES are being proposed to Sheffield Council meetings scrapping a time limit on debates - but opposition councillors fear they will be ‘unhelpful for democracy’.

Currently, discussion about motions at full council meetings is restricted to 40 minutes per item.

The ruling Labour group says the restriction is hindering full debate of some issues and that making the change will mean ‘important issues can be given more time for consideration and ward councillors will have a greater opportunity to engage in debates’.

But opposition Lib Dems are concerned the change will restrict the number of issues debated.

Changes to the sequence of motions are also being made to reflect the reduction in Liberal Democrat councillor numbers following recent local elections.

Labour now has 60 councillors, the Lib Dems 22 and the Greens two. Therefore, there will now be a two to one ratio, with Labour being allowed to put forward two motions for every one by the Lib Dems.

Sheffield Council, Coun Julie Dore, said: “Under the current system debate is often limited. We believe that these proposals will provide a better debate on some of the important issues that we are facing as a council.

“Local ward councillors will be able to have a greater say on the issues that affect their communities.”

As a concession to opposition parties, Coun Dore said that they would have the opportunity to pick the first topic for debate at three of the eight full council meetings held each year.

Lib Dem leader, Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, said: “Under these proposals we could end up with the ruling group setting two motions on national issues and debating them until the time runs out, not allowing any opposition motions. These proposals are unhelpful for democracy.”