Localism bill – prospects for democracy
Given that we have up to now an entirely indirect form of democracy, which bred alienation and disallowed participation, it cannot be expected that “the people” will immediately turn their hand to steering local government and running public services. Active democracy must be learned, learning-by-doing is probably the best way. The democratic components of the Localism Bill could potentially impinge on many functions of local governance bringing empowerment and creative change. Most important, while being “foreign” to pundit and public, is the “citizens’ initiative and referendum”. We have critically evaluated this citizen-led democracy at http://www.iniref.org/latest.html
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The future for local government used to seem pretty straightforward. Councils were the democratic champions of outcomes for their local area, held responsible through central inspections for the health, wealth and wellbeing of their citizens. Over time, they would probably gain increasing influence over all public services in their area through Total Place and public service boards.
That vision of local government appears to be dead this week, finally swept aside by a combination of the Localism Bill and the finance settlement. In its place, the Coalition is trying to open up a new era of innovation – shaking up the environment in which councils work and hoping something new and better will emerge. The Bill contributes to this by injecting a dose of political steroids into three key trends. …….