William Eichler 24 September 2019

Sheffield to hold referendum on ‘overhauling’ governance

Sheffield City Council has confirmed that a referendum on its governance arrangements will go ahead after a petition called for a radical overhaul of the way the council does business.

The campaign group It’s Our City! has collected over 25,000 petition signatures – more than the 5% of the electorate required to trigger a referendum – in support of abolishing the city council’s cabinet model and replacing it with the committee system.

The ‘cabinet model’ of running a local authority means that the majority of decisions are taken by the council leader and the cabinet. The ‘committee system’ would see this power exercised by committees made up of elected councillors.

It’s Our City! argues that the latter system is ‘more democratic’ because it means councillors would have a ‘meaningful say in making decisions’.

Cllr Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, described the petition as ‘a fantastic achievement’.

‘This is a positive opportunity to improve how the council works and gain a wide range of views from different people, groups and partners across the city,’ she said.

‘We want as many people as possible to engage in this debate, and reach as many as possible of the remaining 95% of the people in this city, which is why, as well as looking at governance systems, we want to listen to people about how the council engages and serves the people of Sheffield regardless of which governance system is in place.’

The council is currently developing options following July’s full council meeting where a review was agreed. The findings of this review are due to be reported on within six months.

‘I will be leading a review which includes the options for governance models, looking at the different benefits of the committee system and the current leader and cabinet system,’ said Cllr Terry Fox, deputy leader of the Sheffield City Council.

‘I will be carrying out the wishes of full council agreed in early July, and I am dedicated to working with a wide range of local people and groups in doing this.'

Last month, two cabinet members resigned in support of overhauling the way the council does business.

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