Leaked emails reveal clash between Council Leader and Cabinet member
The Labour Group met in July to discuss the petition and whether they could ward off a referendum.
Campaigners want to scrap the Cabinet system in favour of having committees, which they believe will be more democratic.
The minutes of the private meeting, which have been leaked, reveal Council Leader Julie Dore suggested meeting with campaigners to try to “negotiate” and avoid a referendum.
But Cabinet member Coun Lewis Dagnall put forward an amendment for Labour to “voluntarily change” to a committee system.
Coun Dagnall is married to Coun Olivia Blake, who resigned suddenly as Deputy Leader on Friday saying she believed a committee system would be better and signed the petition.
Coun Dagnall’s amendment was lost with 10 Labour councillors voting in favour of it and 23 against.
The Labour Group instead decided to back Coun Dore’s motion with 25 voting in favour of that, three against and four abstentions.
The minutes of the meeting say: “It’s Our City Petition: Julie introduced the item, she put forward the myriad of systems that could be available to the council to run in a committee-style system.
“Committee chairs can still be selected by the Council Leader, scrutiny committees may not be needed. The decision that needs to be taken tonight is if we want to change the way the council is run.
“If It’s Our City submit the petition that means that immediately a referendum must be called. The cost of a referendum would be around £600,000.
“The advice given by officers is that the council needs to go out to consult on this issue as failing to do so would leave us open to Judicial Review.
“The proposal is that we submit a motion to council in September to consult on a change in Government system for the city. The cost of a consultation would be around £65,000. There were several views put forward by members.
“Julie put forward the proposal: That the Leader offer a governance review and meet and write to It’s Our City to negotiate to avoid a referendum. If the discussion is not successful, then the Leader will come back to group to discuss alternative options.”
The minutes then go on to detail the amendment by Coun Dagnall. This reads: “Our group submits to a voluntary change to a committee system and will initiate dialogue that we consult on what form of committee system and changes in democracy we adopt. With no fiscal detriment to the council and a consultative dialogue with the city.”
Coun Dagnall’s suggestion was vetoed. In the meantime, It’s Our City campaigners raised a 26,000 name petition which has automatically triggered a referendum.
James Henderson, director of policy, performance and communications at Sheffield Council had previously said that a standalone referendum would cost the authority around £550,000.
But if the vote was combined with next year’s council and police and crime commissioner elections, it would leave the council with a bill of around £170,000.
The council has four weeks to verify all the names on the petition. They must be cross-referenced with people on Sheffield’s electoral roll.