Local Sheffield paper The Star is hosting a debate on elected mayors on Monday evening to allow members of the public to question the main opponents and supporters of having an elected Mayor of Sheffield.
IT’S one of the biggest decisions Sheffield residents will have to make – and will have a huge impact on the way the city is run.
Now The Star is giving you the chance to join a Question Time-style debate about whether the city should have an elected mayor.
The event is being held on Monday, from 6.30pm, at Sheffield Hallam University’s the Cantor Lecture Theatre, in the Cantor Building, Arundel Street. Panellists are to include council leader Julie Dore, who is opposed to elected mayors, and Kevin Meagher, chairman of the Mayor4Sheffield campaign.
Voters will asked at a referendum on Thursday to make the choice between keeping the current system where they elect councillors who then choose a leader and cabinet members, or to have a directly-elected mayor to run the council.
On 12 April 2012, we held a public meeting in Sheffield on “Open up Lobbying” which 60 people attended, to discuss and comment on the lobbying proposals. Speakers were Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch, Councillor Joe Otten, and Paul Blomfield MP. Based on that debate and other discussions between our supporters Sheffield for Democracy made a submission to the consultation on proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists, which closed last Friday.
Our report touches upon various issues related to lobbying in, including this bit regarding current political culture:
The unsatisfactory nature of the current situation, on access to influence and power, is well known and acknowledged, including by the Prime Minister, famously quoted as saying: “It is the next big scandal waiting to happen.” All three main political parties have been embarrassed at some point in the last three years by the action of some of their MPs and Lords.
The culture of lack of trust in our politicians encourages a belief that sleaze is inevitable, that ordinary voters have little if any influence, so that that voting cannot make a difference, with fewer people then bothering to vote, especially amongst those who are most needy and vulnerable. This is what politicians are hearing on the doorstep. One worry is about the disengagement of part of the population; another is the demand for extreme forms of direct democracy.
Not that all our politicians are tainted by poor practices; the majority are not, but suffer the same public disapproval which is damaging. Our media often assume this.
You can read more by downloading our Consultation Submission here (PDF, 376KB).
This post summarises the discussions at our “Open up Lobbying” public meeting that was held on Thursday 12th April 2012.
60 people attended a public meeting in Sheffield to discuss the lobbying proposals and to comment on them. Speakers were Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch, Councillor Joe Otten, and MP Paul Blomfield.
The unsatisfactory nature of the current situation, on access to influence and power, was discussed, with all three political parties embarrassed at some point in the last three years by the action of some of their MPs and Lords. The culture of lack of trust in our politicians leads to a cynicism which is seen as very destructive of our democracy: disengagement follows and a belief that sleaze is inevitable. This can lead to the belief that voting cannot make a difference, with fewer people then bothering to vote, especially amongst those who are most needy and vulnerable. This is what politicians are hearing on the doorstep; the worry is about the disenfranchisement of part of the population, which current proposals on voter registration, making it more a consumer choice than a duty of citizenship, will also affect.
One participant likened the system to the Mafia, which is known to ensure political cover for its activities through a high degree of organisation, and bribery and threats. However, whilst the strategy of political influence is similar, no one was suggesting those extremes of criminal activity were common in UK.
Access to influence
A recurring theme during our meeting was the issue of access to influence for ordinary voters. This included how issues were discussed, with a strong plea for clarity of expression on this, so that ordinary people who were not experts could understand the arguments. Too often, those of us who have worked on an issue use jargon or short-hand phrases, or assume a level of understanding that is not there. Also, access for those who do not have internet access needs to be thought through.
Transparency is important but, how can we ensure equality of access?
- our recent public meeting on Lobbying and our submission to the consultation process;
- the debate on elected mayors;
- progress on our plans for an event on proposal for local government reform.