About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Not My Sunday Sermon 4 – Winning & Losing, by Nigel Slack

This is a bit of a late night piece and a reflection on the fruits of three months of intensive campaigning. Campaigning both for change, through my work on transparency in Sheffield's public affairs, and for the support of that work through my crowdfunding project.

It's not a long piece because, in the scheme of things, three months is not a lot of time to make an impact on the political stage, but when trying to live on next to no income and extending credit to the limit, three months seems like forever. I guess that's why I've titled it 'Winning & Losing' the impact I've achieved in political terms has definitely been a win, my ability to make this my full time employ however, has failed.

In this aspect I am undoubtedly disappointed, deeply so. I have received support from some amazing people and, perhaps not surprisingly, those who have contributed could be considered those least able, financially, to do so. Those people have my undying and immense gratitude. They are people who understand what I have been trying to achieve, understand why it is important to do it and believed in my ability to deliver the goods. At least, in that, I feel vindicated in attempting the difficult sell, asking people to contribute to a project that gave no profitable return and no new gadget to display as evidence of ones tech savvy or fashion forward knowledge.

I admit to having failed to translate that into a mass appeal. Quite simply not enough people saw or understood what I was trying to do. Those that I did connect with and who took the time to look at what I was doing and listened to the things I managed to do, be they public or press, were able to relate to my concerns over the way decisions in our city are made and the lack of real public engagement in that process. A great deal of support was expressed and appreciation offered but the ability to fund it was often not there. It is there that the root of my disappointment lies.

Then there are the winning aspects of my last three months. The top of this list may surprise some people but it is the connections I have made with people, both inside local politics and more importantly outside, that share my belief that we can do better. Whether it's been professors from Universities or a 'Doley from Richmond' as he likes to call himself, Council Officers or 'some' Councillors, there are people throughout this city that realise we need to take a long hard look at how we arrange our politics for the future. That the involvement of the public and their support is the only way to legitimise a system that can get fewer and fewer people to the actual ballot box.

Then there are the little victories that come from constant conversations with the cities decision makers. Commitments to transparency in the planning process, the regreening of the Meadowhead roundabout and to opposing TTIP whilst it allows for the privatisation of the NHS.

The one achievement that will probably have the biggest impact on the transparency of decision making in the city is the latest. Live on Radio Sheffield, Leader of the Council, Julie Dore agreed to support the introduction of Webcasting for council meetings, if it can be done without impacting the city's budget. Why is this such good news? I've already put such a plan to the city's Commercial Director, who sees it as entirely feasible. The political will now matches the public appetite and there should be no more obstacles. Now that is a win worth talking about.

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