Green councillors are challenging Sheffield Council’s Labour administration to debate politics instead of shutting down motions to full Council meeting until April.
The first act of lockdown for the Council administration was to use “emergency” powers to take all decision making behind closed doors, ending opposition parties’ rights to scrutinise decisions by the process of “calling in.”
Sheffield Labour is now proposing to cancel all political debates in full council meetings until April 2021. This would mean an end to political debate that could criticise or offer alternatives to Labour. Green councillors are proposing to keep motions on the agenda to restore local democracy.
Councillor Martin Phipps, Sheffield Green Councillor for City ward said,
“At the November 2019 Full Council Meeting Green councillors embarrassed the Labour group by highlighting their practice of deleting all of the text of our motions. Now, we have lost the opportunity to submit and publicise motions entirely.
“Sheffield Labour and the city council are well known nationwide for their devious, top-down approach, lack of transparency and lack of accountability from the tree felling saga. This is not an isolated case, but their general way of working spilling out into public view. Despite the backlash against this and falling vote share across the city, they continue to push ahead avoiding debate because they have run out of ideas.
“Councils across the country continue to hold meetings and debate issues, despite the lockdown. Sheffield Labour instead uses the pandemic as an excuse to shut down democracy, accountability and scrutiny.
“During their time in power, Labour have reduced the number of motions that Opposition groups can submit – the Green group of 8 councillors is now only permitted to put 4 items on council agendas each year. Now, even these are benign removed. They are now openly abandoning any democratic pretence and are pushing for motions to be suspended. This administration is obsessed with power and control.
Councillor Angela Argenzio, added,
“What they are doing is outrageous. Surely in these exceptional times, they should be seeking experience, advice and ideas from outside their bubble, not excluding everyone.
“What Labour are doing in Sheffield, in terms of their resistance to scrutiny, is straight out of the Tory government playbook.”
- The agenda for the full council meeting on 7th October 2020 is at: http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=7673
- Labour councillors will propose that no debates are held at council meetings in November, December and February and will be replaced by a presentation from officers. Traditionally, no motions take place at the January meeting. March is the budget-setting meeting.
- The Green councillors’ amendment calls for:
the ordinary meetings of the Council to be held on 4th November and 2nd December 2020 and 3rd February 2021, will include Public Questions and Petitions, and Members Questions”;
the time limit for Members’ Questions at those meetings be extended to a period of up to one hour to allow for scrutiny of the Executive; and
believes that debate is vital for democracy and accountability and therefore agrees to include at least one notice of motion on topical local issues from each group at each of those Council meetings.
- For previous comment on the Labour Administration restricting Opposition voices, see https://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2019/03/29/councillors-must-be-able-to-represent-electorate/