Sheffield politicians’ bid to tackle voter apathy

Polling station at Newfield Green in Sheffield
Polling station at Newfield Green in Sheffield
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Political leaders have welcomed the news that voter turnout in Sheffield has increased – but remain concerned about ‘apathy’.

Just 35.82 per cent of residents turned out to vote in the local elections last week – up on 2012, when turnout stood at 32.77 per cent.

In total 143,933 people marked their X on the spot, compared to 130,246 in 2012.

Sheffield Council’s Labour leader Julie Dore said: “In 2012 turnout was very low so it’s good to see it was higher this time.

“The European election clearly had some impact on that, but overall turnout was still low this time and below the 2011 level of 40 per cent.

“I think a lot of people are still very apathetic about the political process.”

Coun Dore said tackling low turnout and ‘disenchantment from politics’ was a priority and the council was fighting to increase voter registration and the cabinet in the community programme - where cabinet meetings are held in local wards.

She added: “We need to do everything we can to make sure the people of Sheffield have their voices heard and we are listening to their concerns.”

The concerns about apathy were echoed by rival councillors.

Coun Colin Ross, deputy leader of the Sheffield Liberal Democrat group, said: “Although it’s good to see increased turnout, it’s still worrying to see only just over a third of local people voted – particularly when the poll was the same day as a national election.

“I thank those though who did make the effort despite horrible weather.

“The council has forced through some controversial decisions – like the closure of libraries – and it’s important people have the opportunity to voice concerns.”

Sheffield’s Green party leader Jillian Creasey said: “The Green Party was very pleased to see a higher turnout at a time when there is so much talk of voter apathy.

“In the wards where we showed through local work and campaigning that the Green party is a realistic alternative to Labour, we won with a higher share of the vote than ever before.

“This was from long term residents, new voters, students and ex-Labour and Lib Dem voters.”

She said the party was ‘redoubling its efforts’ to raise awareness of its policies.