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Council promises big conversation on governance: It's Our City! petition meets official target

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Sheffield Town Hall. Photo by Richard Rogerson, geograph.co.uk.

Sheffield City Council have promised a "big conversation" in the run-up to a referendum on city governance.

The Council also verified that the It's Our City! petition had met its signatory target of 5% of the city's electorate and has therefore triggered a referendum, which will be held on 7 May 2020, unless a general election takes place before then.

The ballot will ask Sheffield voters to decide whether to switch from a 'strong leader' model of governance to a committee-based system.

"It's a fantastic achievement that 5% of the electorate have signed this petition and I would like to thank the people who have signed as well as those who have organised the petition," said Council Leader Julie Dore.

"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 continued.

"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."

Ahead of the vote, a Council review will put forward proposals for how a committee system might work.

Many voters will see the referendum result as a judgement on Cllr Dore's eight year administration.

SCC have left this most important change to the last minute

It's Our City! emerged from conversations around scrutiny and oversight of Council decisions following the street tree controversy.

"It is encouraging that the Council are finally taking the people's petition seriously, and are taking steps to modernise the city's governance into a more inclusive democratic committee system that can include all 84 of our councillors from all parties and areas," It's Our City! supporter Nicky Bea told Now Then.

"However, it has to be noted, the Council have been aware of the petition and this proposed change since at least August 2018," she continued. "They could have spent the last year working with experts readily available to create a suitable committee system for the first major UK city to make this change under the Localism Act 2011."

"As it is, SCC have left this most important change to the last minute, therefore not allowing proper time and consideration of the best way forward."

Sam Gregory

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Scarborough Town Hall. Scarborough Borough Council moved voluntarily to a committee system earlier this year. Photo by Mark Stevenson, geograph.co.uk.

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