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.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Vanishing Democracy

A few weeks ago I wrote an article for publication in this month's Now Then Magazine, entitled “Vanishing Democracy” - Has Council Lost Touch with the People?

In what might be described as serendipity or, if you're of that mind, the Universe working in a mysterious way, I completed the article just a few days before It's Our City, the Sheffield Community Group launched their plans to create a petition about the City's democratic structure. The petition is aimed at calling on and possibly forcing Sheffield City Council to hold a referendum on changing to a Committee style structure away from the Strong Leader model we currently have.

If you read the article, via the linked title above, you will see that, between the Strong leader model of Governance and the impact of Austerity there has been a withdrawal by the Council into a more centralised decision making process. One that excludes the public (intentionally or not is immaterial) from having the voice and influence over decisions that we once enjoyed.

We all recognise how austerity and the gutting of Local Government finances has debilitated much of what Council's all over the country can do but, the way we respond to that reduced capacity is key to our ability to resist it's worst effects.

Greater participation from the city's people, investment in that participation and encouragement of that participation is absolutely vital. Councils need to loosen their obsessive control over so many aspects of what we are allowed to do, as community groups, as volunteers and as individuals wanting to support the needs of our city. They need to get behind local initiatives because they work, not because they fit a 'Party Political' agenda and grasp the nettle that is collaborative working within their decision making. An inability to see beyond the pound notes of a proposal or a deal or an opportunity is detrimental to good decision making. We need, in this City, at this time an appreciation of the 'Social Good' that can be done if we will only take the risk.

No one Political Party, Corporation, Voluntary Organisation or Individual has all the answers and nobody is right all the time. Looking at the way Council and Councillors respond to challenge and criticism, you would not believe that. Defensiveness and a bunker down attitude prevails and that is detrimental to making decisions that really benefit locally, and not just in the public purse, but in people's lives and their wellbeing.

I suspect there are few in Council who will read this and agree with me but I am very aware that there are Councillors of the current administration and many members of their political party who are uncomfortable with the way this city is managing itself. We must encourage those people to be more open in challenging the status quo and to put the people of the city before their 'Party' loyalty and the detrimental consequences that begets.

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