What now for Sheffield, the city with no council leadership?

Sheffield is a city in limbo.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 9:14 am

Labour lost overall control of Sheffield Council at the local elections. It was epitomised by Council Leader Bob Johnson being beaten his own Hillsborough seat after just five months at the helm.

The Green Party picked up five seats, the Liberal Democrats took three and there was a surprise win for the Conservatives in Stocksbridge.

The council is now in no overall control territory but there’s also a referendum on whether the current Cabinet system should be scrapped and replaced with committees.

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Polling station sign.

That result is due today. Right now, the city has no Leader. It has no one party in overall control. Even the way it makes decisions is uncertain

Political parties will be negotiating behind the scenes to try to form a coalition. They have a deadline looming as any working partnership will need to be ratified at full council on May 19. If the referendum is successful, there will still be a Cabinet for a year as committees are phased in.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said 42 was the meaning of life and it’s certainly true in Sheffield. Thumb a lift as we go through all the possible outcomes.

Scenario one

Labour’s 41 councillors join together with the Greens’ 13. But Labour has selected Coun Terry Fox as its new Leader – he was synonymous with the tree felling saga. Many Green voters will feel cheated if they ousted Labour only for the two parties to do a deal.

Scenario two

This is where the new Conservative councillor Lewis Chinchen plays a pivotal role. If he supports a Labour majority that would mean a dead heat and rely on the casting vote of the Lord Mayor.

Scenario three

The 29 Lib Dems go for a pact with the 13 Greens. That would succeed if the sole Conservative supports it or abstains.

Scenario four

The Lib Dems, Greens and Conservatives join together – which has never happened but it would be enough to pave the way for Coun Shaffaq Mohammed to be Council Leader.

Scenario five

Labour and the Lib Dems join together. That would be a massive majority but is unlikely given the war between them over the years.

Scenario six

This would be a complete deadlock where none of the parties can form a majority. We could see a negotiation between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens where they all work together for the next year – or the council falls into utter chaos.

And there is one remaining ace card – the Lord Mayor. They could well have a casting vote over the next year. Labour Lord Mayor Tony Downing is due to step aside for Lib Dem Gail Smith.

But could there even be a battle over who wears those famous chains? Traditionally, the parties take it in turn to be Mayor and it’s a non political role. But with so much to play for, will there be any shenanigans to try to maneuver the city’s First Citizen?