This is the response from Sheffield Green Party to the consultation on the future of Community Assemblies.
Sheffield Green Party strongly believes in local democracy based on the principle that decisions should normally be taken at the most local level that works in practice. Genuine ward-level working would be far better for communities. However, we recognise that some decision-making – such as the introduction of 20mph safety zones and other highways schemes are more effective when considered over a wider area and need to be approached on a city-wide, “worst first” basis.
Our view of the importance of local democracy means it is vital that the approach to local decision-making is genuine and inclusive. It should not be centrally controlled.
In connection with this, we do not agree with the proposal to pay extra “special responsibility allowances” to councillors appointed to oversee the replacement community assembly areas. We also point out that it is fundamentally wrong for these expenses to be agreed before the consultation has concluded.
Because of our belief in local working, we agree that ward councillors should be supported to take a lead in their areas. For councillors to be able to carry out appropriate support, it is important to have access to resources such as officer time and support. If the approach to local grant budgets is to be cut so far (as is proposed) as to be effectively meaningless, we believe it would be better to put these resources into providing funding for officers who have a track record of working in the community to support elected members and community groups.
Where there is a formula for allocating funding for each ward, we agree with the approach that bases funding on the index of multiple deprivation since this recognises needs in an area. However, given the very different populations in different wards, the formula also needs to reflect the population size of each ward.