Following our successful joint event with Sheffield City Council on proposed changes to Local Government, the Sheffield for Democracy Steering Group has drafted a response, included below.
We welcome comments and suggestions; in particular, we invite you to make your own representations. Please reply to email@example.com by Friday 5th October 2012.
1. We held a public meeting, jointly organised by ourselves and Sheffield City Council, attended by over 50 people; our response is informed by their opinions.
2. Our response overall is to recognise the significance of the proposals, described by some as a Magna Carta for Local Government. They would create a very different basis for the relation between national and local government, which would demand a change in perspective, attitude and culture. It would mean national politicians ceasing to feel they must act whenever there was a scandalous situation locally for which they would no longer be seen as responsible (Baby P case springs to mind).
3. We also recognise that the code contains not only statements of intent but also practical measures that would ensure the moving of power from central to local, including legal remedies.
4. On both counts, we welcome the proposals. The move to local choices, which will be different In different places, as suits the local environment and preferred ways of tackling issues, instead of a one-size–fits-all approach, seems eminently sensible and democratic. Concern has been expressed over the potential difficulties that could arise when a Local Authority has inadequate revenue or resources to meet its legal obligations.
The consultation on the proposals for codifying the relationship between Councils and central government in Westminster is well under way and registration for our latest public event, “Renaissance of Local Government?” is now open for registration. Entry is free, however book in advance as places are limited! In this post, Sheffield for Democracy activist Richard Shaw offers some thoughts on how to create strong, independent local government, which is controlled not by central government, but by local people.
I think that this consultation is very important and that all people interested in local democracy should consider responding to it. It is important because currently we don’t actually have a right to have a council or any local government, as they are not constitutional bodies, they are merely statutory. This means that Parliament could radically change or abolish any or all councils should it be minded to do so, centralising power and making decision making even further removed from the people those decisions affect. We should respond to this opportunity to safeguard and strengthen our existing councils and to seek to bring decision making even closer to the people where practicable and so I have decided to write about my thoughts on how local government and representation should look and operate. I hope to comment on the individual proposals within the draft code itself in a future post.
The Sustainable Communities Act 2010 and Localism Act 2011 have both tried to make decision making more local, offering a bit more power and responsibility to local government and communities. This is to be welcomed, however any genuine re-invigoration of democracy must begin with all current arrangements and institutions being available for reform, abolition or replacement. The default position must not be with one person or body making all decisions but with all decisions being made by every person directly. What institutions we build and their powers must be derived from thereon, with the express consent of the people. What follows are my suggestions for a new democratic settlement between government, be it local or national, communities and individuals.
Last year I wrote about the problems with how we currently elect councillors and England & Wales, about how First Past The Post allows parties with a minority of support to get a majority of seats, undermines accountability and contributes to lower voter turnout. I suggested how we could fix all these problems, by electing our councillors using the same system used in Scotland and Northern Ireland: The Single Transferable Vote (STV). Well after another round of local elections we have a yet another set of results which show how our democracy is being undermined by our “winner takes all” electoral system. Read the rest of this entry »
In my previous post “Does everyone matter?” I discussed some of the flaws of the current way we elect Councillors. In this post I seek to demonstrate how adopting the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system for council elections (as used in Scotland and Northern Ireland) would benefit voters. STV is superior to FPTP in that it eliminates the problem of Minority Rule (where a minority of the voters are represented by a majority of seats), eliminates tactical voting and encourages a greater diversity of candidates to stand.
The slogan of Sheffield City Council is “where everyone matters”, but when it comes to elections and the representation of the voters on the council: Does everyone matter? In this post I will be pointing out some of the flaws I believe there are in the way Councillors are elected.
Sheffield is one of the largest cities in the UK and is divided into 28 Wards, each of which elects 3 Councillors to fill the 84 Seats on the City Council. Elections happen in 4 year cycles with 1 election each year for 3 years and none in the 4th, except when there are by-elections being held. One seat in each ward comes up for election at a time with councillors being elected by the First Past The Post electoral system (also known as “plurality voting” or “winner takes all”). The last election in May 2011 resulted in the Labour Party replacing the Liberal Democrat/Green Party coalition as the ruling party on the council. The graph above illustrates the share of the vote at the last election in May 2011 and the number of council seats held (voting figures available online at the council website).