It’s Our City petition triggers full council debate

Sheffield Council is due to debate a petition to completely shake up its decision-making process after more than 18,500 people lent their support to a campaign.

By Molly Williams, local democracy reporter
Friday, 28 June, 2019, 12:37
Fran Grace, Sue Kondakor, Andrew Kondakor, Ruth Hubbard and Shelley Cockayne are joined by Lord Mayor Magid Magid at the launch of their petition. Picture: Scott Merrylees

It’s Our City – which calls for a committee system at the council, rather than a ‘strong leader model’ run by one party – has gained enough support to trigger a full council debate.

Campaigners said in a petition statement: “This petition is a one-off opportunity for voters in Sheffield to start the process of changing how our council works, and has legal force so cannot be ignored.

It's Our City graffiti

“Many voters are shocked to learn about the system used to make decisions in our council.

“Many councillors, of all parties, are unhappy because they can’t put forward their constituents’ views, and many of us are aware of problems in our local areas which the council hasn’t dealt with properly.

“A lot of people realise that top down decision-making, and power in the hands of only a few councillors, simply does not work for Sheffield and its diverse communities.”

Other councils in the country have swapped to a committee system such as Brighton and Hove, Kingston and Sutton.

Residents can push for changes under the powers of the Localism Act.

If Sheffield campaigners reach 20,092 signatures, five per cent of the electorate, by August this year a referendum will be triggered.

They have around 7,600 names online and around 11,000 on paper.

The proposal has also been backed by the opposition in Sheffield. Councillor Douglas Johnson, speaker for the Green Party, said it would ‘make for real democracy’.

He said: “All Greens have been really clear that we absolutely support this.

“The big problem is that of the 84 elected councillors only 10 have any say in decision-making – 74 don’t have any involvement.

“We’d like this to be successful so we can have a more democratic council, more scrutiny and better decision making.

“It will be interesting to see how the council responds to this.

“Most Labour members are disenfranchised because they don’t have a say either. We are still free to speak out but Labour backbenchers can’t against their own party.”

The petition will be presented and discussed at a full council meeting on Wednesday, July 3 from 2pm.