OPINION: Voting seesaw at Sheffield Council meeting give me motion sickness

A meeting about the future of Sheffield city centre descended into a farce when councillors made endless and muddling changes which left everyone baffled.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 12:53 pm

Political parties put down motions at full council – these are issues they want to highlight, campaign for or try to change legislation.

Rival politicians can then make amendments to those motions and that’s when a simple vote can become a verbal game of Scrabble.

Liberal Democrat Coun Joe Otten wanted to make a series of changes to a motion.

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The meeting.

He said: “The Lib Dems vote for c and d, we abstain on g, we abstain on h which was added by the Green amendment but vote for h added by the Labour amendment.”

Got that? Try to keep up because then Labour councillor Tony Damms said: “In voting for, we are against k bracket, little 2, close brackets.”

Even Bletchley Park codebreakers would struggle to figure out these amendments

Coun Joe Otten then said: “In voting for amendment 7, we are against paragraph 2.”

At this point, chief executive Kate Josephs was rubbing her temples while Lord Mayor Gail Smith was looking to officers for advice.

Coun Tony Damms was then asked – for the fourth time – to repeat his changes to the amendment.

And sole Conservative councillor Lewis Chinchen chipped in, saying he wanted to “vote against paragraphs 1 and 2 h.”

The vote concluded, so what did Sheffield councillors agree? It was impossible to figure out.

They could have made it compulsory for us all to dress as pantomime horses and race down the Parkway for all the sense it made.

It’s Our City campaigners successfully won a referendum to change the Cabinet system to committees as they believe it’s a better governance system.

But when full council is mired in complex amendments, democracy is clouded. Even the experienced political journalists watching that meeting were struggling to follow proceedings.

Sheffield Council continually strives to be open and transparent but time consuming and complicated amendments mean votes are wrapped in a fog of mystery. Scrap amendments and let voting be clear and straightforward.