Sheffield Labour provides update on Council coalition negotiations
Sheffield Labour has shed some light on its position in the ongoing coalition discussions after losing its majority in last week’s local elections.
The party has been in formal talks with leaders from the Liberal Democrats and Green Party since Monday as they try to agree on the best way to run the local authority following the result, which saw no party gain enough seats for overall control.
In a letter written by its new leader, councillor Terry Fox, and deputy leader, councillor Julie Grocutt, the pair said they want a deal that works in the interests of Sheffield and avoids “political deadlock".
"The fairest way forward is a politically proportionate power-sharing arrangement, and talks are on-going with the Liberal Democrats and Green Party,” they wrote.
Labour also want to move from the existing leader and cabinet system to the Committee System “as soon as possible”, despite a deadline of May 2022.
They said all committees should be politically proportionate, as well as the Council Executive, which was previously the Cabinet.
Despite losing eight seats, the party still retained the majority of councillors – 41 – with 29 Liberal Democrat candidates elected, 13 from The Green Party and one Tory.
Sheffield’s first Tory councillor in 20 years, 21-year-old Lewis Chinchen, who has been elected to represent Stocksbridge and Upper Don, is not involved in the negotiations.
The Lib Dems and Greens in Sheffield have already clarified their respective positions.
Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats, also stressed the need to prioritise the people of Sheffield, as well as “future opportunities.”
He said: “We are happy to work with any party on the council who will sign up to this priority and work to implement key policies that we see as vital to Sheffield coming out of the pandemic.
“So far, the meetings have mainly talked about internal structures – and not about the difference we can make to the people and businesses of Sheffield.”
While the Lib Dems have already publicised their policies, including giving each area committee £700,000 for improvements, Labour said they will not publicly comment on any of theirs while talks are ongoing, with the exception of their offer of political proportionality and an immediate move to the Committee system.
Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of The Green party in Sheffield, said: “If anything, the message from the (governance) referendum is that parties have got to work together so we are proposing that we should do. It’s the best way to do something when, in a lot of cases, people of all parties actually agree with each other more or less on most things.
“The current system creates artificial divides which allows exploitation of issues for party purposes really, so getting people to work together in a way that is much more to do with cooperative and collaborative approach to running the council.
“It’s completely uncharted territory, this council has never had a culture of collaboration. It’s always been dominance by one party or another and that’s just not helpful.”
Cllr’s Fox and Grocutt vowed not to walk away from talks and insisted agreements must be written, not verbal.
They said: “This is too important to leave to ‘handshake agreements’, Sheffield citizens must know publicly about whatever agreement is reached. We must be transparent.”