Paul Colk, in his letter on 15/3/21, seems to be completely misinformed about Sheffield’s referendum on 6th May. This is worrying because the referendum will be so important to the future of the city.
It’s difficult to know where to start because nearly every point he makes is either misinformed or completely false!
The referendum, on the 6th May, is not at all about “the way of choosing the council”. It wont change who is elected, but will let the voters of Sheffield restore democracy to their council. In the current system, only 10 of the 84 councillors have the legal power to make nearly all decisions, and the other 74 have very little say and no legal power. A change to the more democratic Modern Committee system for making decisions will ensure that all the councillors who are elected actually have the legal rights they need to do their jobs.
The Council’s undemocratic way of making decisions has not been used for “centuries” – it was forced on Sheffield in the 2000s by the Blair government as part of its obsession with centralisation.
Change at the referendum is supported by people from all political parties in Sheffield. This includes many from Labour, like the 6 Labour councillors who resigned from their party posts to show their support for change, on the day It’s Our City submitted the legally-binding petition. One was the then deputy council leader, now Labour Hallam MP, Olivia Blake who has since repeatedly supported change. As an ex Labour councillor, Mr Colk will presumably know that many local Labour members support change, and that Labour members are leading campaigns for change in other large councils, like Newham in London. Councils led by all different parties are part of the surge in changing to the more democratic Modern Committee system.
It’s Our City’s founding coordinating team of 13 people included (coincidentally) 1 person from each of the 3 main parties in Sheffield, with the rest not being members of any party. It’s Our City’s rules ensure that no more than 1/3 of our membership, or officers, can also be members of political parties, maintaining our independence from party-politics. For Mr Colk to say that It’s Our City is run by “the LibDems and the Green Party” is complete and utter tripe.
Although Sheffield’s legally-binding petition was the biggest such petition ever in the country, the 26,000 who signed are not deciding the council’s future. The 2011 Localism Act, passed by national government, means that the success of the petition puts that power into the hands of all the voters of Sheffield, so everyone can decide if they want to Vote for Change and restore democracy to their council.
The one point of Mr Colk’s that we agree on completely is that most councillors “haven’t a say” in council decisions. This includes all 35 opposition councillors and the 39 Labour councillors not in the special 9 personally selected by their leader. Sheffield voters are astounded to hear that only 10 of their 84 councillors have the legal power to make nearly all decisions, and that their own councillor does not have the right to vote and represent their area in most decisions.
A Vote for Change in the referendum will make sure that every councillor actually has the power to do the job voters believe they are electing them to do.
If you are looking for more accurate info on the referendum, to help to debunk any further misinformation, please see our FAQ page at www.itsoursheffield.co.uk/referendum-faqs
Woll Newall (Co-chair, It’s Our City!)