Rollercoaster election results and - almost a week later - still an unpredictable future for Sheffield Council
They say a week is a long time in politics – and Sheffield's scene has had quite a shake up in the last seven days.
Friday’s rollercoaster local election count – already extraordinary to follow, due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions - has left Sheffield Council in limbo for almost a week with no party in overall control as Labour lost their majority.The party chose a new leader, former deputy Coun Terry Fox, in a weekend ballot as one of the seats to go was that of their former leader, Bob Johnson. He was ousted from his Hillsborough ward only five months after taking over from Julie Dore.
Hot on the heels of that result came the news that Sheffield has its first Conservative councillor in 20 years. Lewis Chinchen will now represent Stocksbridge and Upper Don ward.
And the shocks continued through the afternoon, as Sheffield Green Party won five seats and the Liberal Democrats three.
Some results were close – Ann Woolhouse, the new Beighton Liberal Democrat party councillor, had a majority of just 42.
As the results, reported live on Twitter by local democracy reporter Lucy Ashton, sped up, so did the nail-biting drama. By late afternoon it was confirmed that, for the first time since 2011, Sheffield Council was no longer a Labour council.
Coun Fox, who represents Manor Castle, was reluctant to be drawn on the devastating defeat but said: “Bob didn’t have enough time as the new leader to put his stamp on things.
“The council did well in how it responded to the pandemic but Labour wasn’t able to enact everything it wanted to prior to lockdown.”
Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Lib Dems, said: “It was totally unpredictable, we went into this election not knowing what Covid would do, what effect it would have with national and local issues coming into play and now this council is in no overall control.”
And Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Party, said: “We have had six good wins, my seat was defended and five new councillors for the Green group in Sheffield – that is a fantastic set of people and a fantastic outcome for the election and hopefully a really good result for the city.”
It was later confirmed that around 15,000 extra postal votes were cast this year. Turnout was also up by around 3.5 per cent.
Covid-19 restrictions meant counters had to spread out across the athletics track and basketball courts behind protective screens at EISS as a restricted number of candidates awaited their fate.
Council chief executive and returning officer Kate Josephs stood on stage alone and announced who had won. Afterwards she said this year’s elections would ‘go down in history’ and praised teams for their work to deliver a ‘safe and accurate’ election.
Coun Fox requested a meeting with the Lib Dems and Greens to discuss the way forward for council leadership and a meeting took place on Tuesday. There are six ways a coalition could be formed, and a partnership needs to be ratified by full council on May 19. It is understood that further talks will take place this week before any announcement is forthcoming.