Local elections: Who will run Sheffield Council now?

Sheffield politicians are in the throes of thrashing out a new coalition to lead the council in its first ever year working in a modern committee system.

Monday, 9th May 2022, 5:27 pm

It follows a long, seven-hour results night after polls closed on Thursday May 5 which saw several seats change hands but no overall winner when the sun came up.

This left the council without clear leadership for a second consecutive year meaning parties now need to agree who will work together in control.

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Sheffield elections 2022: full list of results for every council ward

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Sheffield local elections 2022 at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.

There are a number of options available and councillors have until the annual general meeting next Wednesday, May 18, to settle on one.

Here is a look at how we got here and how things could turn out.

Up to speed

It has been some days since the votes were counted and results were announced at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.

Sheffield local elections 2022 at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.

Things got off to a slow start as counting was delayed by a man threatening polling station staff at the Community Room on Westminster Crescent, Fulwood, shortly after closing time at 10pm.

South Yorkshire Police officers were called to the scene and resolved the issue but it meant the ballot box was late getting to the count, pushing all result announcements back.

Results then came in thick and fast from around 3am and all three of the main parties had a mixed night.

Labour held 13 seats, lost three and gained two.

Councillors making key decisions in the council chamber at Sheffield Town Hall.

The Greens held two seats, lost one and gained two.

Liberal Democrats held eight seats, lost one and gained one.

A few quiet days have passed since and now parties are in the early stages of talks about council leadership going forward.

Who could lead the council?

Counting at the Sheffield local elections 2022 at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.

Labour and the Green Party clubbed their councillors together to form a co-operative executive last year following talks over two weeks.

This included some discussion of a ‘rainbow cabinet’ that would have seen Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats running the council together but that fell through.

It is still too early to say what will happen this year, some parties are yet to have their own annual general meeting to elect leadership within their groups, but it is thought the Greens will have the final say.

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I believe the Greens have a choice to make.”

He added: “What I don’t want is what happened last year where we started as a group of three parties and stuff happened elsewhere. My view, and I’ve been pretty honest with Douglas (Johnson, leader of the Green Party), is the Greens need to decide what they want and if they want to talk to me they can do and if they want to talk to Terry (Fox, leader of Labour) they can do.

“They are the smaller of the three of us so they have to decide what they want. There is no point me and Terry trying to negotiate with each other.”

Coun Johnson said they had initiated talks already and was open to different possibilities.

He said: “Talks have talks and we are making plans to draw up plans.

“We recognise we have got a job to do with the other parties to come up with arrangements that serve the people of Sheffield ultimately, that’s what the job is.

“All options are open, it’s about doing what’s best for the city. We can work with anyone and we proved that because of course last year we formed a co-operative with Labour, the Lib Dems didn’t want to be part of that at that time but it’s important to remember that we negotiated that they could step into that at any time.

“The arrangement with Labour didn’t fall apart over the course of the year so we held together a functioning administration even though we have often had disagreements with Labour and we certainly didn’t always vote with them. So it shows you can work with people you disagree with that’s good because it shows there is lots of scope for this year onward.”

How leadership will work with the committee system

News of another year of no overall control at the council was welcomed by It’s Our City campaigners who fought for the committee system.

Woll Newall, of It’s Our City, said: “No overall control means that the parties will have to work together more, rather than one party dominating.”

Whatever happens with leadership negotiations, things will work differently at the council this year due to this new way of operating.

It is a change from the previous ‘strong leader and cabinet model’ and it aims to give all councillors more say in decision making, rather than a handful having most of the power.

Each committee will have responsibility for, and make decisions relating to, a particular area of council business. The members of these committees will be politically proportionate to the make up of the council, meaning councillors will have to work together cross-party.

Although committees will make most of the decisions going forward, the leader of the council still has an important role to play including being the chair of the committee responsible for resources and budget.

Coun Mohammed said: “That will be where the real power will be held. You can ask for whatever you want but until the resources committee allocates it it’s not going to happen.”

It is still not clear who the chairs of each committee will be, councillors say it depends on what happens with leadership negotiations.

Coun Johnson said: “Because we are moving to a new system we are all feeling our way a bit but what we all recognise is that because no party has a majority we need some degree of co-operation to make the council work in practice.

“The negotiations boil down to who is on every place on every committee because it’s one of those things where nothing can be agreed fully until the whole lot is agreed because of the way it all sits together. There aren’t many things that can be done in isolation.”

Why is the council in no overall control?

A party needs a majority to rule but right now, none have enough councillors.

Following last week’s local elections, Labour now has 39 councillors in total (overall a loss of one since last year).

The Liberal Democrats have 29 in total (no overall change since last year).

The Greens have 14 councillors (one more since the previous elections).

There is also one independent councillor and a Conservative councillor.

When a leadership decision is likely to be made

Last year, negotiations went down to the wire and it was not until the morning of the council’s annual general meeting – the deadline – that a decision was announced.

Senior councillors said it is likely to take as long this time.