"It is to be hoped that the electorate will exercise their choices responsibly"
This letter sent to the Star was written by Arthur Baker, Western Road, Crookes
I recently had the less than edifying experience of attending a full meeting of Sheffield City Council. I would urge more voters to attend these meetings. It provides a valuable insight into how the city is governed.
Looking down on the ruling group it is immediately apparent that there is an almost institutional indifference to the environmental and political challenges that we will be facing over the coming months and years. The level of arrogant complacency is truly astonishing.
One time, in the Victorian period, when even high Tories supported the municipalisation of gas, water and other utilities Joseph Chamberlain, as mayor, famously said that Birmingham was the ‘best governed city in the world’. This spirit of municipal dynamism is completely lacking in the governance of modern-day Sheffield.
No doubt the ruling Labour group would blame the crisis on Tory austerity and cuts. The reality is that the current Labour administration has done very little to oppose Tory austerity. In fact, through its wilful and irresponsible attachment to neo-liberalism and its support for ruinous PFI schemes the council has in many ways compounded the worst effects of central government policy.
At the end of the day the responsibility for this parlous state of affairs rests with us, the electorate. There is a widespread disengagement and disillusion with national and local politics. For many the Town Hall seems remote and unapproachable.
The turnout for local elections is spectacularly low with the consequence that governing administrations are elected into power with a very poor mandate. In May we will be given the chance to vote for new councilors.
There will also be an opportunity to vote in a referendum on the governance of the city and whether a modern committee system would be an improvement on the current discredited strong leader model.
It is to be hoped that the electorate will exercise their choices responsibly. The city is in desperate need of a radical change in municipal culture.