Our Co chair, Anne Barr’s prepared victory speech
Due to Covid restrictions only the returning officer was allowed on the platform so it wasn’t used but she would still like the messages contained to be heard.
For those who don’t know me, I’m Anne Barr, co-chair of It’s Our City! First of
all I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard both last Friday and
again today to get the results out. Thanks for your efficiency and friendly good
humour in very challenging circumstances.
Obviously we are delighted at the result today, and the size of the victory
across wards in all parts of the city. We are delighted not just for the team but
for the citizens of this great city that is Sheffield! Many times the powers that
be told us that Sheffield residents aren’t interested in how the city is run, but
that all they care about is whether or not their bins are emptied. Well, that
wasn’t what we found in our conversations with thousands of Sheffielders
across the city, and the result today has proved them wrong. People are
passionate about their rights to proper representation, both locally and
nationally, when you take the time to actually listen to them.
This has truly been a David and Goliath struggle. Local communities, with no
funding other than generous public donations, coming together to challenge
the establishment and winning. Never underestimate the scale of such a task.
What a roller-coaster of an emotional ride over the last three years of this
referendum campaign! The pressure of collecting over 20,000 signatures in
the course of a year to trigger the referendum in the first place. Then being
within 7 weeks of the referendum last year, only to have it postponed owing to
Covid and lockdown. Gut-wrenching! Having to keep the campaign in the
forefront of people’s minds with very limited scope for communication, only to
have to pick it up again in all its intensity with relatively short notice that the
referendum would actually go ahead this time. Stressful, demanding, intense
– but we finally got here because of hard work, tenacity and sheer
determination to create a fairer system for Sheffield residents, because that’s
what they told us they wanted.
The vision we have is to see a fairer, more inclusive, more transparent
decision-making process, whereby all our elected councillors across the city,
across the parties, participate in some aspect of this much more democratic
decision-making process – a collaborative system with the city’s interests at
heart, rather than those of party politics. Cross-party cooperative working,
community inclusion, local expertise – which we have a lot of in Sheffield –
consulted and heeded as and when necessary. What a wealth of talent we
have here – let’s use it!
Interestingly, the situation of no overall control has meant that cooperative
working now becomes imperative. We will also have yet another new leader.
Disruptive as all this change is, it’s also providing exciting new opportunities
for a more positive way forward.
Of course, this is only the start of the process of change. What is now most
important is to get the design of the new committee system as near to perfect
as possible. It must be tailor-made to suit the needs and demands of Sheffield
and its residents. The council has carte blanche. There’s no one size fits all.
We’ve always stressed that this a real opportunity for Sheffield to come up
with a blueprint that we can be proud of and that others can follow. Our
chance to lead rather than playing catch-up. Let’s see some vision, and a real
will to create the best we can. Sheffield City Council, we want you to rise to
that challenge. Don’t let us down!
There are lots of eyes on Sheffield and this result today, and many will take
heart at our achievement and be inspired to follow in our footsteps. They will
see how communities standing together can effect powerful change.
Finally, a few thanks, to anyone who has
- delivered a leaflet
- put up a poster
- made a phone call
- had a conversation on the street, in a park or just with family and
To anyone who has
- devised social media posts or simply shared one
- talked to the media, or
- written a letter to a local newspaper.
Thanks to those who offered their networks to get our message out.
Thanks to my colleagues on the It’s Our City! coordinating group for your
dedication and hard graft. I salute you.
Thanks to Woll Newell, my co-chair, for keeping me sane (hard task!), and of
course thanks to Ruth Hubbard, our founder and inspiration, without whom we would
never have known about our community rights under the Localism Act.
But most of all, thanks to each and every Sheffield resident who voted for and
has now achieved change!!
Thanks for listening!