Sheffield City Council decision-making to become more democratic

Written by Romesa Razzaq

A significant change to the way Sheffield City Council makes decisions will come into effect in May, a year on from a public referendum.

The current system allows the Leader of the Council, Terry Fox, to choose councillors and make decisions with them without consulting the majority of councillors.

While some say it is a faster and more efficient method for decision making, it also means that a small group of councillors have power.

At a full council meeting on March 23, councillors formally approved the change to the system, which will be implemented after this year’s elections on May 6.

In the council meeting on 9 March, the governance committee was asked: “What has the governance committee learned from other large cities in the Core Cities group that are already run using a committee system like Belfast and Glasgow? How has this influenced the design of the committee system you are proposing for Sheffield?”

In response, Councillor Julie Grocutt, said: “We’ve been very transparent about what we have learned from other councils throughout this process, going back over several years with six case studies and the evidence pack in person witness statements from several of the councils and back in 2019, a site visit to Milbury Care Service as part of the scrutiny inquiry.”

Cllr Grocutt is Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Community Engagement and Governance, and chair of the Governance Committee.

The decision follows the 2021 governance referendum. Further consultations with the public were not required as this counted as a democratic declaration by the Sheffield residents.

The council stated in their Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) that their main focus is on transparency, diversity, inclusive participation, and equality. 

The goal of the move is to ensure the residents’ participation in decision making regardless of their background, as no specific community should control the lives of all communities. All citizens should be able to contribute to the meetings, unless they are closed to the public for privacy and security reasons. 

What will change?

Under the new system, there will be eight policy committees which will be working with the Sheffield City Council on decision making, strategies and budget work. These include: 

  • Strategy and Resources Policy Committee,
  • Adult Health and Social Care Policy Committee,
  • Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee,
  • Economic Development and Skills Policy Committee,
  • Education, Children and Families Policy Committee,
  • Housing Policy Committee,
  • Transport, Regeneration and Climate Policy Committee, and
  • Waste and Street Scene Policy Committee.

In 2021, Local Area Committees (LACs) were launched because the councillors overlook the whole city and not just their local areas. This way, the residents have better local representation.

These committees have some decision making powers to improve their areas, such as dealing with fly-tipping and graffities.

Written by Romesa Razzaq

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