This piece is part three of my blog series, Next Gen Democracy, focusing on the problems with the UK’s democratic structures and ideas on how we could evolve to fix them.
I spent just over a year as a Town Councillor back in 2019. The first election I was eligible to vote in, I voted for myself. To put it simply, it was unbearable.
It was unbearable for many reasons, but there is one core problem that I want to focus on today. The theme is similar to the overarching one that I’ve explored in the first two parts of this series. Government, at all levels, frequently operates as an abstract entity completely separate from the rest of society.
I’m big fan of embedding democracy into day-to-day life, incorporating it into society at large and local communities within it.
Town Councils aren’t exactly the most powerful and important layers of government, but my time there consisted of most of the same problems that I’ve observed in the upper levels of local government.
Gathering relevant partners and implementing decisions that involved anything other than what the Council could do on its own took an age, if it even happened at all. It took 20 years to get a solid proposal for a cycle path and that was just a proposal.
The competing interests and priorities of different layers of local government and external stakeholders, and the logistics of communicating with all of them, meant gathering necessary people in a room was near on impossible. Collaboration and any form of meaningful progress was stopped in its tracks as a result.
In part one, I proposed a second elected House of Representatives to replace the House of Lords. This would be made up of individuals elected by their professional and trade associations rather than individuals through public elections, in the hope of bringing every sector of society together to collaborate and have people with expertise in every area making policy for those areas.
We’ve seen moves in the process of simplifying local government with the introduction of unitary authorities. I’d make this the norm across the country. Publicly elected Councillors would control the budget, coordinate overall strategy and administer the Council, they’d also chair Community Action Forums (CAFs - replacing Council committees).
Each CAF would have responsibility for a specific area. For example: Health and Wellbeing. Education and Skills. Housing and Homelessness. These would be made up of members elected from within all relevant stakeholder organisations, with the equivalent of trade union time for their participation.
This would dramatically boost collaboration and forward-thinking, well-informed policy making. It would encourage the sharing of resources and the common practicing of joint initiatives. Everyone would be in the same room already; efficiency and productivity could be significantly improved. It could add rocket fuel to local and regional growth.
As I’ve said before, I’m just a 21 year old rambling on the internet. I have no idea whether the ramblings are even viable… but I think the issue is a serious one, and our age-old democratic systems could do with being revitalised and reinvented for a modern world.
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