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It's Our City!: Labour group back council by committee

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The It's Our City! petition

A local Labour group has called for changes to the way Sheffield City Council is run to give more power to councillors outside the cabinet

The Central Constituency Labour Party (CLP) passed a resolution in February calling for the Labour-run Council to change from the current strong-leader model to a committee structure.

They're echoing calls from the It's Our City! campaign, which launched in August 2018 and is politically independent.

The conversation with the leadership is at a very early stage

The minutes of February's Central CLP meeting reveal that most speakers from the floor thought that the committee system was "more accountable and should be adopted by the council before the It's Our City! campaign gains further traction."

"I think many Labour Party members have been unhappy with decision-making in Council for a long while but have not known what to do about it," It's Our City! co-chair Nigel Slack told Now Then.

Slack said that the group's proposal has shown how a committee system could be implemented "without changing the political balance of the Council, but allowing all councillors, across all parties, to have a say in decision-making."

It's Our City! are attempting to collect 20,092 signatures (5% of the electorate) from Sheffield citizens calling for a change in the Council's structure.Passing this threshold within a year would trigger a city-wide referendum on changing the leadership model of the Council.

On Monday, the group announced that they had reached half the number of signatures needed to meet their target by the cut-off date of August 2019.

Under legislation passed in 2011, local authorities can change to a model that sees more decisions made by committees of councillors.

Campaigners say that this is more democratic than the strong-leader model, also known as the leader and cabinet model, as it gives a greater role to councillors from other parties, as well as councillors from the ruling party outside the cabinet.

It's Our City! have also entered into talks with the current Labour administration lead by Cllr Julie Dore.

"The conversation with the leadership is at a very early stage," said Slack. "The leaders responded positively to furthering the conversation and are keen to look at alternatives to the strong leader model."

He continued: "After the local elections, we will be looking to hold further discussions, potentially alongside other community groups interested in democratic change within Sheffield City Council, and begin to see if we can get commitment from all sides to moving forward in a joint way."

Local elections will be held on 2 May for a third of seats in the Council chamber.

Sam Gregory

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