Labour and Green Party to lead Sheffield Council as part of 'co-operative administration' to end speculation over leadership
New council leader Terry Fox deputy leader Julie Julie Grocutt, Green leader Douglas Johnson and his deputy Alison Teal made the announcement together in the Peace Gardens – stressing they were not a coalition but a “co-operative administration”.
Conspicuous by his absence was Liberal Democrat leader Shaffaq Mohammed. His party will remain in opposition, playing no part in the new administration and giving the idea of a rainbow coalition the cold shoulder.
The cabinet has been retitled as the executive and it will be politically proportionate with Labour taking seven seats and the Greens having three. The Lib Dems declined the offer of seats but the “door remains open” if they change their mind.
Both Labour and the Greens said they were under no illusion it would be plain sailing but were determined to work together.
Coun Terry Fox said: “This is a very exciting day and a new way of working. All through our talks with the Greens we have tried to put Sheffield first.
“We hoped to have a triangular arrangement with the Lib Dems too, unfortunately that has not happened but we have an agreement with the Greens that will give us an administration and take the city forward.
“We know there’s going to be bumps in the road as we have different priorities but we will work together to get things over the line.”
Will Green supporters feel betrayed by the partnership, particularly as Coun Fox was a Cabinet member during the tree felling saga? Coun Johnson says not.
“We hope that everybody will be really pleased because it’s progress and an achievement to be working with other parties on the council. It’s a historic moment because after 17 years of having Green councillors we finally have three in executive positions.
“It’s going to be really interesting. There’s going to be an independent inquiry into the street trees and that’s a symbol of how we can work together and is indicative of a break with the past.
“We will still have disagreements and we will have to find ways of resolving those, there’s still a lot of work to be done to make this city better.”
The Lib Dems said it was important to have councillors challenging the administration.
Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “It was never about how many seats people got and who was Leader, I was always clear this had to be done by policy and the first two meetings we had were simply about structure.
“I couldn’t go into any agreement without knowing their key priorities and the red lines they would not back down on. We needed to know what we were signing up to.
“There was a danger of every councillor being part of the administration so where were the challenges going to come from? In order for a democracy to function properly there needs to be a strong opposition.”
Meanwhile, Coun Gail Smith became the new Lord Mayor of Sheffield during an historic meeting.
Labour councillor and outgoing Lord Mayor Tony Downing passed on the ceremonial chains and gown to the Liberal Democrat councillor during the first in-person public meeting of Sheffield Council in more than a year.
Ponds Forge International Sports Centre was used for the council’s annual meeting instead of the Town Hall so councillors could social distance.
As she was formally appointed the a-political role, Coun Smith said: “I feel humbled and enormously proud to be the Lord Mayor of Sheffield and first citizen of our great city. Sheffield has been my home, the place I was born and the place I intend to live for the rest of my life.”