The Sunday Times’ recent investigation into the Conservative Party’s fundraising operation has focussed the public’s attention on the influence that can be bought within our political system. We may have been shocked by the frank language used by former Conservative party treasurer Peter Cruddas but the news that money talks within our political system came as no surprise. Meanwhile the government’s consultation process on its proposals for a register of lobbyists is currently underway. Sheffield for Democracy is organising a public meeting in Sheffield to discuss the proposals, just before the consultation process closes:
Open Up Lobbying
Thursday 12th April
7pm to 9pm
Quaker Meeting House, St James Street Sheffield
We have invited speakers from both the political parties that represent Sheffield people at Westminster.
Paul Blomfield MP for Sheffield Central (Labour) and Cllr Joe Otten, Councillor for Dore and Totley, also Chair of Hallam LibDems, will be speaking. (Nick Clegg’s wife is a lobbyist, so he is standing back from this consultation)
In addition we are pleased that Tamasin Cave of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency will also be present.
The Coalition government have pledged to create a register of lobbyists; we need a robust set of proposals if we are indeed to open up the lobbying process to public scrutiny. It is this transparency that we believe is the key to ensuring that influence cannot be bought.
We hope you can join us on the 12th April to show your support for opening up lobbying. We want you to be part of the debate; we plan to write up the comments made at the meeting and make them part of the consultation.
This will be the first public meeting we have called since we were established in June of 2011, so we would welcome your support: do come and make your voice heard. If you are coming, it would be good to know. If you are not able to attend, but would like us to add your comments to our submission, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We also need to help us promoting this meeting. Can you send this to your contacts, friends and family?
We would appreciate your support on an issue which is crucial to the health of our democracy.
Sheffield for Democracy
Party Funding reform
We had updates on Party Funding and Lobbying Reform. This would be a good topic, and good timing, to have a public meeting. We would invite local politicians of different parties to speak.
We also had a report of developments on Lords Reform, including Lord David Steel’s House of Lords (Amendment) Bill which included provisions to abolish elections of Hereditary Peers to the Lords so that the 92 Hereditary Peers currently present would eventually be phased out through natural wastage. This provision was dropped following the threatened tabling of 300 amendments by Hereditary Peers. Other provisions included allowing members to retire and that non-attendance for a whole session would result in the member taking permanent leave of absence. The resistance of the Lords to the modest proposals in the Bill shows the amount of self-interest and resistance to reform present in the Lords.
On Voter Registration, the latest report from the Government following consultation proposes to delay the Autumn 2013 household canvas until Spring 2014, and to change the previous proposal to make registration voluntary, although there is still uncertainty about whether and how to enforce this.
We also discussed the current situation on the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (awaiting Government regulations) and the Localism Act 2011.
On the introduction of elected mayors, it was decided that SfD would remain neutral and not campaign for or against an elected mayor for Sheffield but would seek to promote public awareness, debate and participation, via our webpages. (See our previous post “Should Sheffield have an elected mayor?” for details).
Our work on Community Assemblies is bearing (we think) a little fruit. Leader of the City Council Cllr Julie Dore has now provided written replies to questions asked at the Cabinet visit to the Central Community Assembly about the future of Community Assemblies; it appears they are not to be abolished but final proposals are not yet public. Meanwhile, we are seeking a meeting with senior Council officers on governance issues, and agreed how to progress this.
Meanwhile, the Chair of Constitutional Reform Committee in the House of Commons, with Graham Allen MP, is wishing to encourage new thinking about the relationship between national and local government, and there is a consultation process. It is possible that he would come to Sheffield to speak, and we could be involved in organising this. We will see if Sheffield City Council would be interested in co-sponsoring this. We will raise this with Council officers when we meet them.
Our contact at University of Sheffield has made some progress in contacting schools; we are going to suggest that we help them to run a Day School in the Autumn.
The next meeting, which is open to all our contacts, is on Sunday 25th March in the function room of the Old Queens Head pub at Sheffield Interchange at 3pm. Room hire is £10, donations welcomed.