It’s Our City campaigners speak out after Labour resignations

Campaigners behind a 26,000 name petition – which sparked the resignation of six Sheffield councillors over the weekend – say they won’t be drawn into party politics.

Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 14:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 16:47 pm
It's Our City campaigners hand in the petition

The petition looks set to prompt a referendum and has already resulted in the city council’s Deputy Leader Coun Olivia Blake quitting along with her husband Coun Lewis Dagnall, who was Cabinet member for environment, streetscene and climate change.

It’s Our City issued a statement which said: “The current political fallout within the Labour group is an internal matter.

“Many of the different versions of events will be designed to play to different Labour factions and to attempt to assign blame.

“Ultimately this is a distraction from the real story. It reflects some of the reasons why so many Sheffielders have signed Sheffield People’s Petition.

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“It puts on display the year-long refusal to respond positively and engage with the aspirations of Sheffield communities – even where the exercise of our community rights has legal force.”

In a leaked email to colleagues, Coun Dore said she wrote to Nigel Slack, the co-chair of It’s Our City, who she had been in “regular dialogue” with about the petition.

Her email says: “I asked Nigel if he would convene a meeting with It’s Our City and discuss a way forward. He responded positively and asked to meet me individually first. That meeting with Mr Slack is in the diary. So we are currently in dialogue with It’s Our City.”

It’s Our City campaigners denied this. Its statement said: “Our council has had a full year to respond positively and to decide to change their governance model themselves.

“We were so concerned at the lack of response, It’s Our City triggered a full debate at council in early July.

“However, the ruling group voted against change and, in effect, voted for the referendum route.

“At that stage there were barely six weeks in which a change of mind was possible and this was known by everyone in full council.

“This was subsequently reiterated in writing by It’s Our City. Since then a brief approach to our co-chair was made, but this was unclear and did not address the imminence of petition submission.

“Subsequently, the Leader appears to have been unavailable despite further efforts to make contact via our co-chair.

“It’s Our City is not therefore in talks with the Leader; however, we understand there may now be a request via the Leader’s Office to meet in early September.

“We are unclear on the purpose of any talks we might have at the current moment, given we have now entered the legally mandated verification period for the change of governance petition.

“Sheffield Council has simply left it too late, and there is no room for manoeuvre; it will now be communities and voters who take charge of the way decisions are made in our city.”

The petition calls for the current Cabinet system to be scrapped and replaced with a modern committee system, which campaigners believe is more democratic.