About the Committee System of Governance and Local Area Committees

In May 2021 we held a referendum on whether the public wanted to continue with our current cabinet model or move to a new committee system. The public voted for us to move to a committee system. By law, this gave us one year to introduce this system.

Sheffield had a committee system before the Local Government Act 2000. But we’re not going back to that – we’re responding to the referendum and creating a new system, learning from experience.

The new committees

There will be 8 policy committees, which will align with how council teams and budgets work, and with our strategic aims. They are:

  1. Strategy and Resources Policy Committee
  2. Adult Health and Social Care Policy Committee
  3. Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee
  4. Economic Development and Skills Policy Committee
  5. Education, Children and Families Policy Committee
  6. Housing Policy Committee
  7. Transport, Regeneration and Climate Policy Committee
  8. Waste and Street Scene Policy Committee

Councillors believe this will work best for Sheffield.

Legally we must have a committee system for the next 10 years. But we’ll review this as we learn from how the new system works in practice. We’ll be able to adapt and change how it works to get the best result for the city, for example if we decided to have a different number of committees.  

Membership of the policy committees

There are over 300 seats in total across all the committees, so there will be no shortage of strategic decision-making roles for councillors.

Each policy committee will have a fixed membership. These members will receive training and briefings over time so that they are able to make well informed decisions. However, when they are not available, they can send nominated substitutes in their place. Their political group can change who they want to nominate to any committee at any time. Any other councillor can attend any meeting to observe, and they can ask the chair in advance if they want to be invited to speak.

Committee chairs will be selected by the committees themselves as part of the Annual General Meeting of the council in May. It is worth remembering that the chairs of committees do not make decisions, committees as a whole make decisions. 

The Full Council will meet eight times a year. We want to provide more opportunities for the people of Sheffield to bring their voice into the democratic arena.   

We’ve drawn on the recent experience of other councils

We’re the first English core city to make the change, but several other councils have moved to a committee system recently. So, we’ve been talking to councils that have made this transition, to learn from their experiences. The councils we’ve spoken to include:

  • Cheshire East 
  • Hartlepool 
  • Kingston-upon-Thames
  • Wirral
  • Reading
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Newark and Sherwood

You’ll find some examples in the papers from our Governance Committee in November 2021, starting from p.100. 

Public involvement in shaping the changes

  • We’ve held a number of public sessions around Sheffield and online, to ask people’s views and keep them informed of progress.
  • We also had a 2-day inquiry when experts and people from other local authorities that have been through similar changes gave us the benefit of their knowledge and experience.
  • Our website has been continually updated to show the progress we’ve made, including latest news and a complete timeline of our progress since the referendum. 

Involving the public going forward

We are proposing a set of recommendations that will support members of the public to feed into the committees. You can see the complete list from section 6.2.6 in the 9 March 2022 Governance Committee papers.

We are also working with Involve, a public participation charity, to look at how we put your voice at the heart of decision-making. This includes looking at what we've already heard from Sheffielders about how you would like this to happen. Involve will look for examples of what has worked well in the past and where we need to improve. Conversations will take place with stakeholders, community organisations, and council officers to reach an independent conclusion on what we do and don't do well, and to suggest better ways of doing this in the future. This area of work is ongoing.

There is more information about our approach to public involvement in decision making from page 10 of the 9 March 2022 Governance Committee papers.

Scrutinising decisions

The current scrutiny process was originally created to allow backbench councillors to challenge decisions which were made under the leader/cabinet system. Because the new committee system will involve councillors from all political parties represented on Sheffield City Council, scrutiny won’t be needed in the same way.  

The new policy committees and the Local Area Committees (LACs) 

The Local Area Committees

The Local Area Committees (LACs) were set up in 2021. There are 7LACs, each covering 4 wards. The 12 councillors from those 4 wards make up the Local Area Committee.

When councillors sit on the new policy committees at the town hall, they’ll be representing and making decisions about the whole of the city, not just their own local area. LACs are therefore a way of enabling better local representation, not an alternative to it. LACs are about encouraging discussion and debate about local issues, in a setting where councillors make decisions at a local level.

The LACs provide the people of Sheffield with a louder voice in local decision-making. They give Sheffielders the chance to share their opinions and contribute to positive changes in their communities. Each LAC makes a community plan to guide their area’s development in the coming year, based on what changes the public have said they think are most important.

Local Area Committee powers

The LACs have some decision-making powers delegated to them to improve their local area. In practice this depends on having the cash to do what they decide to do.

There are several things to consider:

  • Funding to implement the LACs’ community plans.
  • Extra funding specifically to tackle fly-tipping and graffiti.
  • Extra support for LACs elsewhere across the council.

Funding to implement the LACs’ community plans

In 2021 the LACs were given initial funding of £100,000 each, to help implement their new community plans.

As the LACs were only set up in the middle of 2021, the first community plans weren’t agreed until March 2022, so the LACs have spent little of this money, and it’s been rolled over to financial year 2022-23. The LACs can use this money to work on the priorities in their community plans.

The LACs are required to report publicly on how they’ve spent this money.

Extra funding specifically to tackle fly-tipping and graffiti

The LACs were given an additional £700,000 in total to spend specifically tackling fly-tipping and graffiti. Some of this was spent on a network of CCTV cameras to deter and help report fly-tippers at known hotspots. This left approximately £57,500 per LAC to spend tackling fly-tipping and graffiti in 2022-23.

Extra support for LACs elsewhere across the council

Helping the LACs to be more responsive – to help them to engage, empower and enable their local communities – has required us to make changes across the council. This isn’t specifically LAC funding or decision-making, but in practical ways it helps the LACs to get things done by connecting them better with the various council services.

For example:

  • Parking wardens: each LAC has a named, dedicated Civil Enforcement Officer working with them directly.
  • Community safety: the LACs will have dedicated Sustainable Communities Officers (previously known as Neighbourhood Wardens) working with them.
  • Street cleaning, fly-tipping and environmental health: each LAC now has a dedicated Environmental Regulation Officer working with it.
  • Parks and countryside: each LAC has a named Parks Officer working with it.
  • Housing and neighbourhoods: a named Neighbourhood Manager now works with each LAC.
  • Youth: there’s greater collaboration with the Youth Service, to help shape provision for young residents in each local area.

The ward pots

The ward pots are funds available to councillors to be spent locally. The ward pots aim to support stronger, successful communities by making grants available to local voluntary, community, and self-help groups and projects.

This cash is spent at ward level, so it’s not a LAC decision. But it further demonstrates the council’s desire to empower and enable local communities.

For 2021-22 the council doubled the ward pots, to £460,000 in total. For 2022-23 the amount allocated to ward pots will revert to 2020-21 levels (that is, £230,000 in total).

LAC meetings

Each LAC has 4 decision-making meetings each year. At these public meetings important matters are discussed, members of the public can ask questions, and decisions are made. These meetings are held within the local area, and in different wards, to give residents the best possible opportunities to attend locally. They take place on weekday evenings, starting after 5pm. 

There will be extra meetings from time to time, for example to discuss specific issues.

If you can’t get to a LAC meeting

For people who can’t get to the meetings:

  • You can view a live webcast of the meeting, and/or watch a recording of the webcast.
  • You can email questions to be asked at the meeting.
  • You can talk to your councillors and your LAC team in the usual way.
  • You can find out how to watch a meeting via Zoom by visiting our committee pages. You also be able to sign up to email alerts to be kept informed about LAC meeting webcasts.
  • You can find contact details for your Local Area Committee on our website. You’ll also be able to sign up for email updates from your LAC, or subscribe to the local Facebook, Nextdoor or Twitter, to keep informed about what’s going on. 

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