Shorter meetings mean Sheffield councillors must be more 'focused'

A full council meeting at Sheffield town hall.
A full council meeting at Sheffield town hall.
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Sheffield councillors must be more 'focused' in meetings as a raft of changes are introduced this week.

Monthly full council meetings have been moved to later in the day, starting at 5pm rather than 2pm, and will last three hours rather than four-and-a-half.

Ukip's Jack Clarkson.

Ukip's Jack Clarkson.

A cross-party working group has also decided to limit the number of motions each political party can put forward.

Previously, agendas went on for pages with various motions on a range of topics.

But now they will be limited to a total of four per meeting, split according to the number of councillors per party.

This means Labour will get two, the Lib Dems one, and the Greens and Ukip will have one every other meeting.

Douglas Johnson of the Green Party.

Douglas Johnson of the Green Party.

The hope is that motions are more carefully chosen and councillors get the chance to debate points put forward by all parties.

There will still be an hour for public questions and petitions at the start of each meeting.

A proposal to live stream meetings is also gaining support.

Ukip leader Coun Jack Clarkson said recent meetings had ended up with councillors simply arguing amongst themselves.

"People may look on these four notices of motion a lot more kindly than just reading through reams of paper," he said.

"We are going to have to be a lot more focused."

Motions allow each party to put forward their policies and have their say on particular issues.

Labour, for example, will use this Wednesday's meeting to address transport and gambling, while the Lib Dems will tackle the electrification of the Midland Mainline and Ukip will discuss Labour's position on Brexit.

Coun Clarkson said his main concern was ensuring time was given to each motion.

But Green Party councillors are disappointed they will only get to have their say once every two months.

Coun Douglas Johnson submitted two notices of motion this week, covering the council constitution and the amount of student accommodation in the city. These have been put at the end of the agenda and may be subject to the 'guillotine' if time runs out.

Coun Johnson said it was an important issue for opposition parties who had 'a lot less opportunity than Labour to put forward proposals'.

And Lib Dem leader Shaffaq Mohammed said: “The ruling Labour group came forward with these issues and suggestions.

"Although we are hesitant about some of the changes, we have agreed to a trail period after which we will be seeking to review what has and hasn’t worked.

"What is most important for me is that Sheffield residents who engage with the council meeting get a chance to have their say on their changes and input into how Sheffield’s democracy works moving forward."

The council's deputy leader Olivia Blake said: “A working party, made up of councillors from all political parties, all agreed to trial the changes.

“Motions are issues which are debated at the full council meetings. Previously unlimited motions were put forward but there often wasn’t time to discuss more than one or two.

"That’s why the proposal is to limit the number to four, and to do this according to political make-up. All four motions will be debated in the meeting.

“This is by no means the only way different councillors can raise issues for debate and the group will be looking at ways different political parties can make their stances on issues clear to the public.”