Sheffield for Democracy and Sheffield City Council held a public meeting, as part of Local Democracy Week, to discuss the future of Community Assemblies in Sheffield. Over thirty people attended the meeting, which was chaired by Vicky Seddon and had a panel which included Councillor Mahzer Iqbal, who is currently responsible for Community Assemblies, and David Baker, who helped establish them.
We have finished compiled a report of the proceedings of that meeting and a summary of the discussions and suggestions made by members of the public. We would appreciate any comments you may have about the report’s findings.
(You may need to install a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader to open it.)
Vicky Seddon, Coordinator of Sheffield for Democracy, gives this personal view of the hustings held on 5th November.
72 people turned out to hear all five candidates tell us why they are standing to be Commissioner, in a meeting jointly hosted by Sheffield First Partnership, “Sheffield for Democracy” and the Star Newspaper. All thought that an elected commissioner was not the right thing to have, or that the process had been badly handled, but they thought that, given there was going to be one, they were the right person to do it. Many of the comments we had received before the meeting also disagreed with the whole process, seeing it as imposed by central government, who hadn’t even bothered to put it to us in a referendum like the ill-fated proposal for elected mayors.
David Allen the English Democrat referred to the ancient office of Constable, who should be out on the beat preventing crime. He saw the two main tasks as altering the precept (i.e. financing police) and the ability to discipline or dismiss the Chief Constable.
Jonathan Arnott, the very energetic ex- General Secretary of UKIP, had much experience of working in community organisations, and working with young people, had a grandfather who was a policeman and a father who was a magistrate. Keeping the streets safe was his main priority. He wanted 24 hour police stations in Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham, as in Sheffield. He intended to appoint a known Lib Dem as his deputy.
Nigel Bronson, Conservative, had been a police officer for 30 years, and a total of 38 years in public service, so believed he was well qualified. This was a job selection process; he was not running a political campaign, and was not going to make promises that could not be kept. He had wide experience of “Safer Cites” programme including in high crime estates. If other agencies did their bit, the police could get back to tackling crime.
The Lib Dem Robert Teal’s pitch was that you could trust him. Policing by consent was crucial, as he had discovered in his role as magistrate. If trust was lost, people stopped reporting crime. However, he was not going to make pledges that could not be kept. He would offer clear leadership.
Shaun Wright , Labour, listed his experience; magistrate, ex shop steward, now councillor in Rotherham, Vice Chair of SY Police, Rotherham’s Children’s Trust. His vision was to make SY a safer place to live, learn and work. Priority was in protecting vulnerable groups: women (from domestic violence), children (from grooming and abuse), the elderly and drug users .
Wright’s record in Rotherham on the grooming issue was criticised by other candidates. Arnott challenged other candidates to say who they would appoint as deputy; none complied. All were asked whether they would support the call for an independent inquiry into collusion and dishonesty over police statements on Orgreave where 95 miners were charged with affray and all acquitted; all were in favour but said that SY police could not afford such an inquiry; funding needed to come from national purse.
Questions from the audience
Questions asked included whether this was a move towards Americanisation, and the extent to which the candidates would continue their allegiance to their political parties rather than exercise their own judgement. They all said they would not take instructions from their parties.
Candidates made a distinction between operational matters (responsibility of Chief Constable) and their role, with strategic perspective. Arnott insisted that more bobbies on the beat would general more confident and was what people want; Bronson and Wright said that one of the challenges was dealing with such popular demands in the face of research evidence e on the most effective use of resources.
Peter Bradley of Sheffield Cathedral, chaired the session very fairly and ensured a reasoned debate. On leaving, some people told me they were still unsure whether to vote for a candidate, or to abstain or spoil their paper because they disagreed so strongly with the process.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hustings
Peak Lecture Theatre,
Sheffield Hallam University (The Owen Building),
This is your chance to hear and put questions to the candidates.
- DAVID ALLEN – English Democrats
- JONATHAN ARNOTT – UKIP
- NIGEL BONSON – Conservative
- ROBERT TEAL – Liberal Democrats
- SHAUN WRIGHT- Labour
This is the only open invite event that we know of in Sheffield, and likely to be popular, so arrive in good time! Please let us know if you will be attending by signing-up for the event via the Unlock Democracy website: http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/event/detail/publicmeeting/jt4
|Time:||Monday, November 5, 2012 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM GMT|
Many events are being held as part of Local Democracy Week, which runs from Monday 15th October to Sunday 21st October and below is a list just some of the events which make up the Sheffield Speaks programme during Local Democracy Week.We’ve indicated which are open to the public and provided links to further information.
Entry to all open events is free.
Monday 15 October
- Speakers’ Corner in front of the Town Hall: 10.45am-2.00 pm, hosted by Sheffield City Council and Churches Together
- to book your 60 second slot, please call 2734072
- Councillors visit Youth Clubs – organised by the South Community Assembly, Councillors visit different youth clubs, every evening of the week
Tuesday 16 October
- Speakers’ Corner at Hallam Square: 12.00 -1.00 pm Tuesday
- Primary School visits and activities at the Town Hall
- Illuminating Our Democracy? The Role of Free Speech and a Free Press– lecture and discussion led by John Steel, lecturer in Journalism Studies at Sheffield University – Council Chamber, Town Hall 6.00 – 8.00 pm
- Open to the public – for more information, please call 2734072
Wednesday 17 October
- Primary School visits and activities at the Town Hall
- Youth Forum Launch (Woodthorpe/East): Woodthorpe Youth Centre, Chadwick Road
- Open to the public – for more information, please contact April Ellis (Locality Involvement Lead – East) at email@example.com or telephone 0114 201 2782
- Dragon’s Den at the Young People’s Building – Council officers pitch their ideas for community engagement for young people to judge
- Health & Community Care– an opportunity to listen to and participate in the Council’s Scrutiny Committee’s meeting on these key issues: Town Hall 2.00pm
- South Community Assembly Community Roadshow – public services and local organisations welcome engagement with the community: Common Ground/St Peter’s (Woodstock Road) 4.00 – 6.00 pm
- Open to the public – for more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 2053281
- Northern Community AssemblyMeeting – the Northern Youth Forum presents its community action plan: Ecclesfield Primary School 6.30 pm
- Open to the public – for more information, please contact email@example.com or telephone 2037153
Thursday 18 October
- Speakers’ Corner at Hallam Square: 1.00 – 2.00 pm
- Our Sheffield – older people visit a local primary school to discuss their city with a group of eight year-olds in an initiative organised by the Sheffield Star
- Cabinet in the Community at South West Community Assembly– the Council’s Cabinet goes out into the community at Banner Cross Methodist Church, Ecclesall Road South: 5.00 pm Cabinet in the Community / 7.00 pm Community Assembly Meeting
- Open to the public – for more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 2037212
- Police Commissioner Hustingsorganised by Sheffield Third Sector Assembly / Voluntary Action Sheffield for local groups involved in community safety and crime reduction
- Open to voluntary and community groups – for more information, please contact Paul Harvey at email@example.com or on 0114 253 6614
- The Sheffield Past, Present and Future debate- Town Hall 5.00-7.00pm – organised by Sheffield 50+ and Sheffield Futures; in Local Democracy Week, can young and older people agree how best to make their voices heard?
- For more information, please contact Julie Berrisford on 0114 273 5426
- Participate – a talk and discussion organised by the Workers’ Educational Association about why people do or do not participate in the democratic process (the taster for a course starting in January 2013): Town Hall 6.00-8.00 pm
Friday 19 October
- Speakers’ Corner at Hallam Square: 1.00 – 2.00 pm
- City Talks – The Great Debate – a day of debate at the Town Hall designed to give 11-18 year-olds the opportunity to express themselves, exchange views, gain confidence and boost engagement, organised by the Council’s Every Sheffield Child Articulate and Literate programme
- For more information, please contact ESCAL on 0114 293 0984 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 23 October
- Community Assemblies: the Way Forward?- A meeting organised by Sheffield for Democracy, for community organisations and activists to share ideas on how community assemblies might develop: Town Hall, 6.30-8.30 pm
“Community Assemblies – the Way Forward?”
A meeting organised by Sheffield for Democracy, for community organisations and activists to share ideas on how Sheffield’s Community Assemblies might develop.
This event is part of the Sheffield Speaks! programme, an initiative by the Speakers’ Corner Trust to help promote the importance of democracy and to encourage greater local participation.
This event is free and open to all. There’s no need to book in advance.
For more information please contact Vicky Seddon on email@example.com.
From the Unlock Democracy website:
Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform society would like to invite you to a conference with a twist; this time, you, our activists, will be invited to tell us who should speak and what theyll be speaking about.
We’re planning a day that’ll be jam-packed with speakers, workshops, discussions and meet and greet sessions.
On the 20th of October, activists for democracy from all around the country will gather in Birmingham to share ideas, tips, and thoughts about how we can all make our campaigns more successful.
Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform society know that our activists are in the best place to know what their needs are, and how we can cater to them. Thats why we really want you to get engaged in helping us to help you.
Thank you to all those members of the public who attended our “Renaissance of Local Government?” meeting last Friday at Sheffield Town Hall and to Sheffield City Council for joint-hosting such a successful event to which more than 50 people came.
Special thanks go to our speakers Clive Betts MP, Peter Facey (Director, Unlock Democracy) and Howard Sykes of the Local Government Association, for coming to Sheffield and speaking on the subject of decentralising power and decision making from Westminster and for answering the many questions asked of them by the audience.
Renaissance of Local Government?
Friday 22nd June 2012, 6.00pm – 7.45 pm at Town Hall, Sheffield
In collaboration with Sheffield City Council, Sheffield for Democracy is hosting an event to discuss proposals to strengthen the independence of local government.
The last fifty years have seen a growing centralisation of power in England with local government having less autonomy and becoming more and more local administration of central government policy.
The Westminster Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform has made some radical proposals which could change this and are consulting on them. This meeting is an opportunity to hear about these changes and their implications, and to discuss how they might improve our democracy.
- Clive Betts MP,
- Howard Sykes (Local Government Association and ex leader of Oldham Council), and
- Peter Facey (Director of Unlock Democracy) will help us explore the proposed changes.
Both Sheffield City Council and Sheffield for Democracy will be making (separate) submissions and this discussion will inform our thinking.
You are invited to attend. Entry is free, however places are limited.
To reserve a place, please contact Richard Cannon either by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information on the draft code for central and local government can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/
Sheffield for Democracy welcomes supporters of all political parties or none. We want to engage and encourage greater participation of the public in democracy at a local level in Sheffield and encourage young people to become more interested in politics by making them aware of how relevant it is to their lives.
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.
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?