A new era for local economies?

As an economics student, I learned 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 Group (Local Government Association is a member of this group) is planning to fund a website called YouChoose, which will allow 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.

I’m sure many residents would have valued the opportunity to input on local spending decisions. Traditional channels exist and are useful for capturing public opinion. But could local authorities have been faster to use rich media to register, capture and act on public opinion, particularly with regards to local expenditure?

A lot of work has been done to revitalise local democratic interest, but Council meetings and other public forums are often dominated by the views of a few passionate individuals. Where are the faces and voices of the people who think politics has nothing to do with them? The money tin is empty and soon everyone will be talking about changing local services.

Suffolk County Council has decided to outsource most services. Richmond Council recently launched a new online tool called ‘Your Ideas’. Residents can use it to say how they think local services could be improved or provided more cheaply or more efficiently. Suggestions will be reviewed monthly by the Council’s Chief Executive. Watch out for future blogs with residents feedback on this tool.

Until the Local Government Association website is set up, inviting the electorate to exert their influence on local issues might be a politically astute move. Spending money responsibly and accountably is the stuff of local government. Communicating successful delivery of reduced services requires a greater emphasis on resident involvement. Some councils understand the need to take residents with them, on this continuing journey of political and economic change.

Richmond Council www.richmond.gov.uk

Suffolk County Council http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11398678

Concerned about secondary education? Read about an innovative classroom experiment: http://tinyurl.com/34fu7vn

© Suzy Rigg


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