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Strengthening local democracy, delivering good government

May 16th 2018

Local democracy is in crisis. In the repeated attempts to reform local government in Wales, little consideration is being given to how the people who rely most on local council services will be heard. We want to put the question of how people are represented back on the table.

Why action is needed

Local democracy in Wales is in crisis.

At the May 2017 local council elections, barely 4 out of 10 of the electorate voted and in 1 in 13 seats candidates were returned unopposed. More than 90% of people do not engage with their local council e.g. via consultations, and half the electorate is dissatisfied with how their council relates to them.

Town and community councils do not cover around a third of the population, and where they do they have extremely limited powers.

An opportunity for change

Reform of local government in Wales has been on the agenda for many years, with almost all debate being focused on service delivery rather than local democracy.  The Welsh Government Green Paper ‘Strengthening Local Government, Delivering for the People‘ continues in that vein. There is already a conflict of opinion about the relative size and geographical coverage of any new authorities. In contrast there has been very little debate about addressing the huge democratic deficit in our councils.

What we are doing

We want to put the questions of power and accountability centre-stage, so that the statement in the Green Paper that ‘the debate is about people’ is a reality. We will do this by harnessing people’s views and proposing radical changes to the institutions, their powers and ways of working and to people’s capacity to participate.

Phase 1 – Green Paper Response

The first phase 1 of our work involves bring people together from a diverse range of backgrounds to discuss how people can be at the heart of Welsh local government. They include representatives of those whose voices are seldom heard by local authorities: disabled people, young people and older people, people from ethnic minorities, women and people on low incomes.

Their views informed our response to the Welsh Government’s Green Paper which you can read here and shape the next phases of our work.

Future Activity

We have plans for a 15-month long programme of:

  • listening to people and communities
  • engaging with thought-leaders
  • creating change.

We are actively seeking funding for this work from a number of trusts and foundations across the UK to enable this work to go ahead, as we do not have funds of our own or government, lottery or EU funding. As ever, competition is extremely tough and we await the outcome of our bids.

We welcome offers of financial support to enable us to undertake this work – please contact us to discuss the opportunities further.

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