Green councillors have proposed a motion for the November 4th meeting of Sheffield City Council objecting to the imposition of an elected mayor for the Sheffield City Region. The motion notes that Sheffield voters decisively rejected the idea of an elected mayor for the city in a 2012 referendum, and calls for any city region mayor to be subject to a further vote. Greens are also calling for Sheffield councillors of all parties to be given a free vote on the issue when the Sheffield City Region devolution deal comes before the Council for debate and approval.
Councillor Rob Murphy, Speaker for the Green Group of councillors, said: “‘It will be a sad day for democracy if our local leaders ignore the 2012 referendum result. The result was clear and Labour need to listen.”
1) For follow-up comment, please contact Cllr Rob Murphy, Speaker for the Green group of councillors, on 07580 498 392.
2) The text of the Green motion as submitted is as follows:
That this Council:
a) notes that on October 2nd, 2015 the Leader of the Council joined other local authority leaders from South Yorkshire, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in signing a ‘devolution deal’ for the Sheffield City Region;
b) notes that among the reported benefits of this deal is a pledge of an extra £900m over 30 years from central government for the Sheffield City Region, equating to £30m per year, but notes that this amount is not nearly enough to offset the substantial cuts that central government has imposed on Sheffield and other local authorities in the SCR over the past five years;
c) notes that as part of the ‘devolution deal’, it is proposed that there will be an elected Mayor for the Sheffield City Region from 2017, and believes that this is regrettable and a backwards step for local democracy;
d) recalls that in a 2012 referendum the people of Sheffield voted decisively against having an elected Mayor for Sheffield City Council, and believes that this demonstrates strong public feeling in this city against the centralisation of executive powers in the hands of a single individual;
e) notes comments by the Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (reported in the Yorkshire Post on October 13th) that the imposition of a Mayor on the Sheffield City Region and other areas is “what you would imagine in a dictatorship, not a democracy”, and agrees with the sentiment that elected Mayors should not be imposed on either local authorities or cross-authority areas without clear public support, for example via referenda;
f) therefore considers it disappointing that local authorities across the Sheffield City Region, including those that are Labour-led, are failing to stand up to what this Council believes to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s unreasonable demands with respect to the imposition of a City Region Mayor;
g) believes that while radical devolution of power to local authorities and cross-authority areas is necessary to counter the traditional concentration of power at Westminster, the current proposals for Sheffield City Region represent a step in the wrong direction both for the future of the local area and for local democracy;
h) welcomes the ‘Democracy Matters’ initiative of the Electoral Reform Society and a number of UK universities including the University of Sheffield, which will see two pilot ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ “[debating] a range of options for Britain’s constitutional future”, is proud that Sheffield has been chosen to host one of these two pilot Assemblies, and believes that these provide a far more positive model for future discussions over devolution than the negotiations that the Administration conducted behind closed doors in agreeing the Sheffield City Region devolution deal with central government;
i) calls upon the Administration to rethink its plans to accept the imposition of a City Region Mayor without a further referendum having established this as the will of the people of Sheffield;
ii) calls upon central government to ensure that, wherever devolution deals with local authorities call for the establishment of elected Mayors, central government funding is provided to cover the costs of holding referenda to determine whether this has the support of local people;
iii) given the significant and far-reaching implications that this deal is likely to have on the development of Sheffield’s economy and governance for decades to come, urges all political groups on Sheffield City Council to demonstrate their commitment to democracy by giving Members a free vote on the Sheffield City Region devolution deal when that deal comes before this Council for debate and approval.