The Sheffield People’s Petition Communities have the power – and responsibility – to improve local politics
Today marks a turning point for local democracy in Sheffield as The Sheffield People’s Petition will be formally launched by It’s Our City! at 3pm, 25th August 2018, from the Lord Mayor’s Chambers at the Town Hall in Sheffield.
The launch event brings together a diverse group of resident representatives from many walks of life and community groups, from across the city, to launch the petition with its first signatories. As someone who loves Sheffield, and who supports communities working together for change, Sheffield Lord Mayor, Councillor Magid Magid, is hosting the event in his Chambers.
This is the first time that residents in a major city have taken action for a change of governance arrangements, under the power vested in communities by legal statute (The Localism Act 2011). The community group It’s Our City! are coordinating a campaign to present a petition to the Council signed by at least 5% of Sheffield’s registered voters, this amounts to 20,956 signatures. Once the petition is verified the Council will be compelled to hold a city-wide referendum on changing the way the city is run. The Sheffield People’s Referendum could be held at the same time as next year’s local elections, 2nd May 2019.
It’s Our City! say that residents have been shocked to find out that in all likelihood their elected representative is muzzled by the current ‘Strong Leader’ and Cabinet system and that all the important decisions are made by only ten councillors who, in fact, represent only seven wards in the city! Residents expect a meaningful role for every elected member, or what is the point in voting in the rest of the city?
It’s Our City! believe residents have been let down again and again by poor decisions made behind closed doors, and communities want to see much greater openness and transparency, collaboration and accountability built into how our Council operates. Residents want to see the council harnessing the wealth of knowledge and experience within our proud communities and the sectors that hundreds of passionate and active citizens are involved in – to be part of the decision-making process, working in partnership with the Council instead of being shut out.
Anne Barr, Co-Chair of It’s Our City! states “The petition is a start to the process of communities’ transforming the political culture of Sheffield themselves, by changing from the ‘strong leader’ and Cabinet system and embracing a newly designed Committee system, that reflects the expectations and vision for our city that our communities have been striving for – a Committee system is simply a better fit for the city. In July the Council chose not to take steps to improve democracy and the way our city runs, so it’s time for communities to do so. We have the power, and the responsibility, to do it for ourselves now and for future generations.
During autumn, as well as circulating Sheffield People’s Petition, It’s Our City! will be visiting community groups and holding open events to create community conversations about the vision and expectations of a Committee system and how voters want their Council to work ‘for’ the city in the future.