Proposition 3: We must put the democracy back into localism

Proposition facilitator: Anthony Zacharzewski, Founder, The Democratic Society

Localism without democracy is the empowering of sectional interests with no accountability. Public services ration scarce public resources and democracy is the best way to make decisions in the absence of an abundance of plenty.

The work stream will consider the challenges and opportunities of localism and focus on how we can enhance participative and representative democracy in 21st century local governance.

The discussion will consider the challenges and opportunities of localism and focus on how we can enhance participative and representative democracy in 21st century local governance.

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2 Responses to Proposition 3: We must put the democracy back into localism

  1. Pingback: Welcome to the Solace Summit 2011 | Solace Summit 2011

  2. Firstly, thanks Philippa for inviting me to post on this discussion. My name is Jonathan Elmer and I have been running a social company called Democratise for a few years. Our company builds websites and our flagship national website was a finalist at the recent NOMINET national internet awards. This website merges geographical information technology with social networking functionality to create what might be considered a ‘virtual parliament’. The sites is designed to align with UK political boundaries and enables the residents of discrete constituencies to start campaigns. As the site is able to assign all users to their correct political constituency, campaigns can be ranked in accordance with the support they receive from the constituency. This is important as it enables MPs to judge the level of support given to different issues by their own constituents. Each campaign has an associated discussion forum, and members can make friends, send messages, start groups etc. In addition, the site enables users to pin their campaign to a map so everyone can see the spatial location and nature of other issues within their community.

    The reason I was keen to post on this forum is because our company has now been trying for more than a year to find a Council willing to pilot such a platform customised to empower local democratic engagement. This is a straightforward process and enables Councillors to determine the relative priorities of residents within their ward boundaries, as residents are able to propose and prioritise local issues. The Councillor may then respond on the website to the top priority, post in associated discussion forums, or indeed raise their own issues. (I am able to post a detailed specification of such a local platform should this be requested). We have now explored delivery of such a pilot with 3 Councils all of whom showed considerable initial interest but ultimately decided not to continue with the pilot. The reason being the potential long term revenue implications of maintaining the platform – basically requiring a full time moderator should the site become popular. Most recently, Newcastle City Council expressed genuine regret at not going forward with a senior Councillor expressing that they loved the idea and had it come at any other time, then they certainly would have proceeded, but due to CSR related cuts it couldn’t be justified – the irony plain for all. We maintain that Councils could make considerable savings using such a platform as it enables reduction in the considerable spend Councils make on supporting physical forums for engagement – community forums, panels, partnerships – all of which could potentially gain greater levels of engagement through creation of a virtual forum.

    I do hope this stimulates some thought on possibilities, and if your Council might be interested in building such a platform, then please let me know.

    Jonathan Elmer

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