Sheffield Liberal Democrats call for coalition talks to focus on policies not positions

The leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats called for coalition discussions to focus on policies and not deals and positions, as he outlined their priorities.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Saturday, 15th May 2021, 1:07 pm

Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green Party leaders have been in formal talks since Monday trying to decide who will take control of Sheffield Council after a shake up at the local elections pushed it to no overall control.

Labour lost eight seats, five to the Green Party and three to the Liberal Democrats.

The new makeup of the council is: Labour, 41 councillors, Liberal Democrats, 29, Green Party 13 and Conservatives one.

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Sheffield Lib Dems.

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats, updated their members on the situation after “considerable interest and questions”.

He said: “The priority for us is and always will be the people of Sheffield and future opportunities. 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.

“The talks should not be about deals and who gets what position in a rainbow coalition but need to be based on positive policies that will help to support opportunities for businesses and people in every part of Sheffield.

“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.”

He put a number of policy priorities to the other parties to agree as a way of working together.

These are: giving each area committee £700,000 to make improvements, a full independent public inquiry into the street-tree felling saga, rule out any extra localised business taxation and sign up to the Arup report that sets the pathway to carbon zero by 2030.

There are a number of options for who could run the council and earlier this week, the Greens called for a rainbow coalition that would see all three parties share control.

Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of the party, 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.”

Coun Terry Fox, leader of Sheffield Labour, at the start of the week said: “It’s incumbent on politicians to get an administration over the line so we can start serving the people of Sheffield and I will do everything I can to get that done by (the council’s annual meeting on) May 19.”