On May 3rd this year Sheffield, along with 9 other English cities (including Wakefield, Manchester and Leeds), will hold a referendum on whether to have an Elected Mayor. This would mean moving away from the current Cabinet-based council system to an Executive model with council powers concentrated into a single individual elected by voters across the city. If the referendum is successful then elections will be held in November. The referendums were initiated by the recent passing of the Localism Act in November 2011.
At yesterday’s meeting of the Steering Group we discussed the mayoral referendum and whether to support, oppose or remain neutral on the issue. It was noted that so far there had been little public information and discussion of the relative merits of either side. It was eventually agreed that Sheffield for Democracy would be a neutral party in the debate and would seek to provide a platform for discussion and to encourage participation in the elections to ensure the legitimacy of the result.
We are therefore inviting guest blogpost contributions to the debate to put forward the arguments in favour or against changing to an elected mayoral system, or even to provide a neutral view. Contributions are welcome from supporters of any political parties or none or any charity or organisation concerned with local democracy. For fairness we ask that contributions are limited to around 500 words (a single side of A4). Please email your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week the Coalition Government published its response to the consultation on its plans for implementing Individual Voter Registration. Members of the public and democracy groups had raised concerned about certain provisions in the proposals, which included removing the current legal requirement for people to register by introducing an opt-out. The Government have made the following changes to their proposals:
- The Coalition Government will now hold a full household canvas in spring 2014, deferring the planned canvass from autumn 2013.
- The new right to “opt out” of registration will not be introduced in its originally proposed form; People who wish to opt-out may be required to fill out a separate form or the opt-out may be dropped altogether.
- The government plans to consult more widely on whether or not to make non-registration an offence.
Unlock Democracy have been a key part of the campaign to improve the proposals and they had this to say:
This is an entirely welcome step forward and we are pleased the government has listened to the concerns it received about its original proposals. More than 750 responded to our push to get people to respond directly to the consultation, while over 2,100 people used our website to write to their MP about the issue.
Unlock Democracy has always supported the introduction of individual elector registration itself as an important tool for tackling voter fraud. Our concerns with the government proposals have always been over the pace the government planned to introduce the new system and the introduction of the “opt out” which we believe would have a negative impact in terms of both voter participation and the jury system.
Read more: Government backtracks on new voter registration rules (Unlock Democracy).