SCC Governance Referendum header

Sheffield City Council Governance Referendum

The Council provides hundreds of services which people all over Sheffield use every day - whether it’s keeping children safe, collecting waste, providing housing and public health services or delivering adult social care. The Governance Referendum gives you a choice over how the Council will make decisions about your local services in the future.  It was postponed in 2020 and is now planned for 6 May 2021 and will be held at the same time as the local Council and Police Crime Commissioner elections.

On 6 May there will be two choices...

The question you will be asked on the ballot paper is:

How would you like Sheffield City Council to be run?

By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.
By one or more committees made up of elected councillors. This would be a change from how the council is run now.

Cabinet Model
Schematic describing the Cabinet Model for Sheffield City Council.

Leader and Cabinet model

All 84 of Sheffield’s councillors elect a Leader who appoints a Cabinet made up of up to nine other councillors. Each Cabinet Member is responsible for a particular area (e.g. housing or adult social care). The Leader and Cabinet make decisions on important issues either collectively or individually and are held to account for those decisions by other councillors through an overview and scrutiny process. 

This is how the council currently runs. 

At the Full Council meeting on 8 January 2020 it was agreed that some changes should be made to the existing governance arrangements. The most important change is that all major proposals would be looked at by a new cross-party group of councillors before Cabinet makes a decision on them. This cross-party group could recommend changes to proposals before final decisions are made.  Councillors could still review decisions after they’ve been made. 

This is the model used to run the Council now but with the agreed addition of a new committee to review decisions before they are made by Cabinet. 

Committee System
Schematic describing the proposed Committee System Model for Sheffield City Council.

Committee model

All 84 of Sheffield's councillors (known as Full Council) elect a Leader, but decision making authority continues to rest with Full Council, which will delegate most decision making to groups of councillors drawn from all of the political parties on the council (committees). Full Council makes appointments to these committees. Each committee is politically proportionate – this means that the largest party on the Full Council will have the most councillors in each committee. There would be a number of committees, with different areas of responsibility, including an overarching one, which would look at the most important decisions. 

This would be different to how the council is currently run. 

Under this model a politically proportionate Policy and Strategy Committee, chaired by the Leader of the Council would be set up to take major decisions. A number of thematic committees would also be established to make decisions on particular topics (e.g. housing, children’s social care). The Chairs of these committees would be on the Policy and Strategy Committee. Individual councillors are not allowed to make decisions - all have to be considered at a meeting of a committee. There’s no requirement for a separate overview and scrutiny process, although there would be a process for decisions to be reviewed. The precise number of Committees and their areas of responsibility will be determined after the referendum and these new governance arrangements will be developed with oversight from the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee. 

We know these governance models are quite complex and you may want more details on them, so we’ve put some extra information in a pdf if you want to read more.  We also understand that the possible costs of the proposed models is information you may want as well, so we’ve added a pdf that explains this too.

Locality Arrangements 

Cabinet has agreed to introduce new arrangements to allow the council to work more closely with local communities.  There will be seven Local Area Committees (LACs), each comprising a number of electoral wards, established as part of the Council’s governance structures.  LACs will be able to make decisions about some issues that affect their local area.  LACs will include all councillors from the wards covered by that area.  

Local Area Committees will have devolved budgets and delegated decision-making authority, ensuring communities, alongside local councillors can take decisions which are best for the unique needs of Sheffield’s communities. The intention is that Local Area Committees will transform the Council’s approach to the delivery of services, with greater focus, responsiveness, and accountability to the different needs of communities across the city.

The locality arrangements would be put in place under either a Leader and Cabinet or a Committee system.



Some of the ways in which the council works will be similar regardless of which option is chosen in the Governance Referendum….

Working with communities

Working with communities

Councillors have pledged that the way in which we engage with local communities and neighbourhoods will be enhanced.

Full council

Full Council (monthly meeting of all 84 councillors)

Full Council would continue as a forum for debate and discussion about important topics, and a place where the public can bring petitions and ask questions. 
Under the Leader and Cabinet model, Full Council would be responsible for choosing the Leader.  
Under the Committee model, Full Council would be responsible for appointing councillors and chairs to individual committees.

Planning and licensing decisions

Planning and licensing decisions

Under both models no changes would be made to the way planning and licensing decisions are taken – these would continue to be made by cross-party committees of councillors.

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The Governance Referendum will take place alongside the local and Police and Crime Commissioner elections.  Make sure you're registered to vote - you can vote in person at a polling station, or apply for a postal vote.