Coalition, committees and Covid secure meetings – what lies ahead for Sheffield Council
Sheffield will see a groundbreaking council meeting today (Wednesday) with a new Leader, a new coalition, a new way of making decisions and a new venue.
The annual general meeting of the council has moved from its traditional home in the Town Hall because the 84 councillors plus officers cannot fit into the chamber and socially distance.
The temporary venue will be Ponds Forge, which has hosted local election counts in the past, and members of the public were asked to register their attendance in advance and advised to do a lateral flow test.
The first item will be the Mayor making, the civic ceremony where outgoing Lord Mayor Tony Downing will hand over the chains of office to his Deputy and incoming Lord Mayor Gail Smith. A new Deputy will also be chosen.
The age-old tradition is normally celebrated with official photos in the historic Town Hall but this time the Mayor will receive the grand title in a sports hall.
Next will be the appointment of a new Leader of the Council. This won’t be as straightforward as normal as no party has overall control so the Leader will instead need to rule with a coalition.
A Cabinet will be chosen because, although the referendum voted in favour of switching to committees, these still need to be arranged and implemented. A Cabinet will need to govern the council while this changeover happens.
Councillors will then be expected to approve the governance referendum, which will eventually see the Cabinet scrapped and replaced with a committee system.
Finally, there will be a discussion about whether the allowances paid to senior councillors should be increased following a recommendation from an independent panel.
Right now, it’s almost impossible to predict the finer details of how the authority will operate and who will be the senior councillors over the coming weeks and months.
It’s equally hard to say whether full council meetings will return to the Town Hall as that is dependent on the Government’s Covid roadmap.
With a referendum, a coalition and a global pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty still to come.