It’s Our City petition triggers referendum on how Sheffield Council is run

Campaigners have successfully gathered enough signatures to trigger a referendum on how Sheffield Council is run.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 5:09 pm
Sheffield community group It's Our City (pictured Fran Grace, Sue Kondakor, Andrew Kondakor, Ruth Hubbard and Shelley Cockayne) are joined by Lord Mayor Magid Magid at the launch their petition to force a referendum on how decisions are made by the council. Picture Scott Merrylees

It’s Our City community group got a total 21,815 signatures from voting residents across the city, passing the five percent of the electorate mark.

Shelley Cockayne, of It’s Our City, said they would be celebrating the success this weekend.

She said: “Wahoo, we did it. It’s fantastic and much more than we required. It was a whole team effort. So much hard work has gone into it.

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Sheffield community group It's Our City, in a packed Lord Mayor's parlour, launch their petition to force a referendum on how decisions are made by the council. Picture Scott Merrylees

“It’s been such good teamwork and meeting people across the city over a common goal.

“It’s not been difficult to get people to sign. They want to see change at the council.”

Ms Cockayne said around 80 to 90 percent of people they spoke to signed the petition and that it was more than 1,700 signatures over the required amount.

She thanked all those who had been involved and added: “We’re very proud of everyone.”

The next step is for the council to investigate how a committee system would work. Ms Cockayne said It’s Our City cannot design a model but will remain involved in the debate.

Woll Newall, of It's Our City, said: "The success of Sheffield People’s Petition has taken great dedication by a small group of community members, together with a phenomenal response from all communities across all areas of the city, in the face of resistance from the council.

“The vast majority of Sheffielders we spoke to, have already shown that they want their city to lead the way by embedding greater local democracy at the heart of city governance. We are pleased that the council now seems to be taking a more positive approach today, but many across the city are sceptical.

“We look forward to the council immediately calling in the national experts on governance change, the Centre for Public Scrutiny, so that the city can be properly prepared for the referendum in May. An internal ‘review of the options’, reporting only a month before the design of the new committee system must legally be completed, will be inadequate."

The referendum will be held on or before the day of the next local elections, which are set for May 7, 2020. Voters will decide if the council should be run by a committee system.

Currently, the council has 84 elected councillors, but under the current model it is the council leader and nine cabinet members who make key decisions.

It’s Our City wants that to change so that more councillors have a say.

Earlier this year the then deputy leader, councillor Olivia Blake quit to support the petition. She was followed by then cabinet member councillor Lewis Dagnall and four other councillors.

Councillor Julie Dore, leader of the council, said it was a ‘fantastic achievement’ and thanked those who had signed and organised it.

She added: “This is a positive opportunity to improve how the council works and gain a wide range of views from different people, groups and partners across the city.

“We want as many people as possible to engage in this debate, and reach as many people as possible of the remaining 95 percent of the people in this city, which is why, as well as looking at governance systems, we want to listen to people about how the council engages and serves the people of Sheffield regardless of which governance system is in place.

“We will also be speaking with all of our partners, across the public, private and voluntary sectors, who we work with to make the right decisions, making Sheffield a great place to live, learn, work and enjoy.

“We want a big conversation about how we make the decisions that affect and improve people’s lives. Our cabinet always meets in public, we have held them in the community, on the radio and in local newspapers, to make sure that the people of Sheffield can get involved in the decisions we take. All of the cabinet’s decisions are open to call in by the council’s scrutiny committees.

“We always look to improve and know that we can do more, so we want to listen to people’s views about how we can best approach this.”

Coun Terry Fox, deputy leader of the council, said: “I will be leading a review which includes the options for governance models, looking at the different benefits of the committee system and the current leader and cabinet system.

“I will be carrying out the wishes of full council agreed in early July, and I am dedicated to working with a wide range of local people and groups in doing this.

“Public engagement is important to me and I am looking forward to presenting a report that takes into account the views of the wide ranging stakeholders in our city, to summarise the results of those discussions.”