Fiercely contested local elections are finally taking place across the UK this Thursday, with extra anticipation built up after a year-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With multiple different votes taking place simultaneously by a variety of different systems, voters can often feel confused and unengaged by local democracy. To help you get all you need to know ahead of this Thursday, here’s a break down of which votes are happening in Sheffield and how they work.
The election of councillors will be taking place alongside that of Police and Crime Commissioner and a referendum on how the council is governed.
One third of the seats in the Town Hall are up for election, one per council ward. That means there are 28 seats up for grabs. The main political parties standing for these seats are Labour, who currently form the council, Liberal Democrats, who are in opposition, the Green Party and the Conservatives. With only a slim majority, Labour are at risk of losing control of the Town Hall.
These elections were rescheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, they were supposed to take place a year earlier on 7 May 2020.
The Governance Referendum will give the people of Sheffield a choice over how the council will make decisions about local services like housing, public health, education and waste collection on their behalf in the future.
Voters will be given a choice between a leadership and cabinet model, which is how the council is run now, and a committee model, which would be a change. Under a leadership and model, councillors vote for a leader, who has executive power, making decisions which bypass the full council. Under a committee model, committees consisting of cross-party councillors make decisions on key policy areas, before the full council votes on their proposals.
The Cabinet has agreed to introduce new arrangements to allow the council to work more closely with local communities even if the council’s running system stays the same. There will be seven Local Area Committees (LACs) which would be put in place under either a Leader and Cabinet or a Committee system. These LACs will have devolved budgets and delegated decision-making authority, meaning communities, alongside local councillors will be involved in meeting Sheffield’s unique needs.
The referendum was triggered after a petition by It’s Our City was signed by more than five per cent of the Sheffield’s voters, which means under the Localism Act 2011 a governance referendum must be held.
An election will also take place for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for the South Yorkshire Police Area.
Alongside Dr Billings, retired police chief superintendent David Chinchen (Conservatives) and councillor in Sheffield Joe Otten (Liberal Democrats) will also be running for PCC.
The PCC elections are held every four years and every county, district, unitary and metropolitan council in England is required to appoint an officer of the council to be the Returning Officer for local government elections within their local authority area.
Polls are open 7am-10pm on Thursday 6 May 2021, with results due on Friday afternoon for the local elections and Monday afternoon for the governance referendum.
You can vote in all three elections by post or in-person at your local polling station.
To see your local polling station, check your poll card or search here.