As an economics student, I leaned about the laws of supply and demand, and the artificial – not always negative – measures that politicians put in place to achieve and retain economic and political equilibrium.
In the UK, the Local Government Association, the collective lobbying organisation that represents all 422 member local authorities in England and Wales, is planning to fund a website called YouChoose, which allows members of the public to decide how spending cuts are made in their area. It sounds like an empowering democratic tool, encouraging citizens to think about ways to reduce local expenditure. It’s also a clever way of taking the sting out of a range of public service cuts that are non-negotiable.
It would have been good to have a website like this in operation to encourage local residents to decide how money would be spent. Ahhhh, I hear the local politicians cry, what about the regular open and accessible meetings we host on a range of issues and there are MP surgeries too, not to mention local newspapers and associations and forums? This is true. There are many channels already that facilitate public opinion to be heard. But local politics might have been faster to capture new technologies and channels to invite and register public opinion. A lot of excellent work has been done in revitalising local democratic interest, but in many cases it’s still a case of the ‘usual suspects’ turning up or making their voices heard.
I have attended local council meetings and the passion and engagement is not in question. But what is missing is the new faces and new-er voices. The political virgins. The ones who think politics is boring and has nothing to do with them. But the money tin is empty and at a corner shop near you the topic of politics – heavily disguised as changing services – will be on everyone’s lips. Suffolk County Council has decided to outsource most services. What is your council planning?
Until the Local Government Association website is set up, there are still plenty of ways to influence what happens in your town, village or street. What services may be at risk? What services are being protected? What does this mean for you? What do your friends and neighbours think? You don’t need to drone on about the Comprehensive Spending Review at the next dinner party (unless you don’t wish to be invited again). But if you care, talk and share then act! You never know where it may lead. Spending money is the easy bit. Making savings, personal and economic is trickier. Like reverse EBay.
Suffolk County Council http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11398678
M.I.A.’s video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sei-eEjy4g
What is the Local Government Association? http://tinyurl.com/3a33q5f
© Suzy Rigg