The deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Olivia Blake, has resigned from her post in order to campaign in a referendum on Sheffield’s governance.
Cllr Blake, who represents Walkley ward, is also the Labour Party’s candidate to replace Jared O’Mara in Sheffield Hallam following this autumn’s expected by-election.
In a statement on her official Facebook page, she said it was due to a likely local referendum on whether to maintain the Cabinet system Sheffield City Council currently has, or whether to adopt the committee system that the ‘It’s Our City’ campaign are pushing for.
“My preference was to resolve the debate on the Council’s governance structure without the need for a referendum but now that it is almost certain to be held, it is time to take a public position on where we go next,” she said.
“I will take the side of the people. I will back the committee system. It is a starting point for a wider debate on how to rejuvenate our democracy, and it is important that Labour voices contribute to this debate.
“I have added my name to the It’s Our City petition, and will make further statements in the coming days about the role I intend to play in the upcoming referendum.
“These decisions make my position in the Council’s Cabinet untenable under the current political leadership.
“I have therefore resigned as Deputy Leader of the Council and of the Labour Group. This has not been an easy decision to make but I believe it is the right one for the people I represent and for the Labour Party.”
In her statement, she also highlighted her achievements in her position as deputy leader of the Council, including introducing Webcasting of meetings and reversing privatisation to return power to local councillors.
Cllr Blake is standing against the Liberal Democrats’ Laura Gordon in Sheffield Hallam, as she bids to hold onto the seat which Jared O’Mara won from Nick Clegg in the general election two years ago.
However, O’Mara has been hit with a string of scandals during his time in office, and is expected to resign when Parliament returns from recess next month. The latest of these came when, it was revealed today, he was arrested in Sheffield city centre last week on suspicion of fraud.
He was later released pending further investigation, but seems likely to resign his seat in the coming weeks regardless.
When he does, it will fire the starting pistol on a by-election in the city. More parties are likely to nominate their candidates in the next few weeks, ahead of the expected poll this autumn.