This is a brief report on the Steering Group Meeting of Sheffield for Democracy, held at the Old Queen’s head, Sheffield on Sunday 20th May 2012 between 3pm and 5pm.
Lobbying and House of Lords reform
We began our meeting with an update on both Lobbying and House of Lords reform. The group believes that the current proposals on lobbying reform are too feeble. It was noted that House of Lords reform was included in the Queen’s Speech.
Lack of proportionality in local election results
As mentioned in a previous post, Vicky Seddon has written a letter in the Sheffield Telegraph about the recent local election results and Proportional Representation (PR), which appeared in the paper 10/05/12. If local elections were carried out using a system of Proportional Representation they would better reflect the wishes of the voters and give us a much broader-based Sheffield City Council. The exact outcome of a local election using PR may vary according to which system of PR is chosen and number of candidates in the multi-member wards and also people may change how they vote under PR, with some voters having less need for tactical voting. Northern Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system for its local and Assembly elections, as does Scotland (since 3rd May 2007, which came about due to the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament). The London Assembly, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament all use the Additional Member System (AMS) for their elections. European Parliament election in England, Wales and Scotland use a Closed List System, whereas Northern Ireland uses STV to elect their region’s representatives.
Sheffield had the biggest vote against having a directly-elected Mayor, 65% against & 35% for. Doncaster voted yes to retaining its existing directly-elected Mayor (62% for & 38% against). Bristol voted for having a directly-elected mayor (53.3% for & 46.7% against). (Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Wakefield voted against having a directly-elected Mayor).
Public meeting on local government
There was an update on the arrangements for a future public meeting on changing the relationship between local government and Parliament, to make local government more independent of central control. More information about that will be published in due course.
We had a recap on Community Assemblies from Alan Kewley. It was suggested that Community Assemblies:
- haven’t come up to expectations and need reform to do the job better;
- vary in terms of structure and public engagement depending upon the area;
- need more powers to make their own decisions on spending, etc.;
- need to have smaller ward-level forums, which were part of the original proposals but never put into practice.
Electoral Registration and Administration Bill
We had an update regarding the latest proposals for individual voter registration rather than the household voter registration that we have at present. Current proposal for Individual mandatory voter registration instead of the previous idea of individual voluntary voter registration is welcomed. A household canvass is to take place in spring 2014, deferred from Autumn 2013, in order to ensure more people are registered. The constituency boundary changes to create more equal electoral districts will take place in 2015 and are in the same bill.
The next meeting will be on Sunday 8th July at 3pm at the Old Queen’s Head, Sheffield.
The following is a Report of the Steering Group meeting held on 22nd April 2012, 3pm-5pm at the Old Queens Head, Sheffield.
The website now has details of all our activities including Steering Group meetings, the recent public meeting and links to various campaigns about May’s mayoral referendums.
The Clean Up Lobbying Meeting at Friends Meeting House: it had been a good and lively meeting, with 60 people in attendance. Vicky Seddon has produced both a report of the meeting and our submission for the consultation process.
Elected mayor: a meeting with Sheffield Star involvement has been held, and there have been some press coverage. Sheffield for Democracy is not taking a position but there is information and links on campaigns for both Yes and No campaigns on our website.
Local Government: Graham Allen’s Constitutional and Political Reform Select Committee has opened a consultation on their radical proposals, to give proper constitutional status to local authorities, and also to give them finance-raising powers. We are hoping to organise a Sheffield meeting, jointly with the City Council, in June. We have had a very positive meeting with Council Leader Julie Dore to discuss this and subsequently meetings with Council officers.
Party Funding: Labour’s leader Ed Miliband has proposed a £5,000 cap on donations, as well as a cap on spending. This is likely to kick-start the debate.
Lords Reform. Liz reported that the Select Committee was to report on the following day – 23rd April. Probable 80% – 20% split in favour of elected and appointed peers. Bishops still there but fewer. 15 year terms. There will be arguments about whether there should be a referendum.
Consultations. Neil outlined some of the issues in the light of council policies on Community Engagement/Involvement/ Empowerment and how that worked out in practice from experience of recent local consultations. Important that more effort is made from officers and councillors to get local people discussing issues given a residue of apathy and disillusion. A piece on the website would be useful.
Next Meeting: 20th May in the function room of the Old Queens Head public house next to Sheffield Interchange at 3 pm. The meeting is open to all our supporters. Any donations towards the cost of room hire are welcome.