Tag Archives: community

A new narrative for community democracy?

Have you noticed the hierarchical language that is often used by public service providers?

Local authorities, and others, are required to ‘engage’ with residents. ‘Citizen empowerment’ is offered as a gift by government.

Even those of us involved in politics fall into the trap and sometimes talk as though it is government that drives society; we talk as though it is government that is the main source of welfare for citizens; and we talk as though it is government that creates successful communities.

We need to turn this on its head. We need to talk instead of government dependent on, and subservient to, the dynamic communities they represent and serve.

As Liberal Democrats we are proud of our practice of community politics. We now need a new narrative of community democracy.

In our personal lives we all know that the things that have the greatest impact on us happen quite independently of local or national government. What matters to us most are our relationships with others, and our interactions with the localities where we live and work.

We must return to a concept of community that has, at its heart, individuals who are free to make and break relationships with each other, individuals who are free to develop roots, as deep or as shallow as they wish, in their local area, and individuals who are free to form local networks based on common interest and common interests. Community democracy grows organically from the natural relationships and networks that already exist in localities.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 7 Comments

We need fair devolution

Wales and Scotland have a devolved assembly/parliament and a single tier of local government. Northern Ireland could have if their politicians would sit down and agree a programme of government instead of playing yahoo politics.

In England there is no serious devolution and the system of local government is a dog’s breakfast with elected mayors, police commissioners, the London assembly and a wide range of councils with different powers.

Yet a working party in the Liberal Democrats has managed to come up with an even bigger mess than currently exists because they won’t argue for radical change.

‘Devolution on demand’ is a recipe for years of argument, disagreement and no action. Does anyone seriously believe that holding referenda on whether an area wants devolution will lead to a successful vote? Of course not. The anti politician brigade will be in full cry and the claim that it’s just another obstacle to people doing what they want will be pushed to stop it. No! If we want devolution, we should say so and legislate for it once we get the chance. Look at any country with a proper federal system (and our brave working party don’t even utter that word) and you will see that their devolved governmental units have common powers and that they are entrenched in the constitution.

Now I accept that there needs to be discussion about the boundaries of the devolved government for England, even though I personally favour a parliament for Yorkshire. What is wholly undesirable is different powers in different regions, because that is a recipe for total confusion.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 42 Comments

Community – a liberal value in a changing world

 

Community is – rightly – considered a fundamental part of our values as liberals. Beyond its inclusion in our basic creeds, however, it is perhaps one of the less discussed and debated parts of Liberal Democrat belief. Whilst much ink is continually spilt over our positions on equality and liberty, what “community” means is perhaps too often taken as a given.

I want to suggest that we need to think about this more, because community has to stand at the core of a liberal society – and not just in the sense of localism that “community” is too often restricted to in discussions I’ve seen. If we are to be a party that seeks to liberate the people of our country, community is a crucial part of that process. The interpersonal links people make are vital on all sorts of levels; for exchanging information, for coming into contact with new people, for mental and physical health. These things form the difference between being able to positively use economic and social freedoms and condemning people to soulless individualism; nobody is liberated by being thrown as an isolated object into a rat race.

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

Scratch and sniff: The reek or alluring scent of our values

The medium is the message. So often as people it’s not so much what we do as how we do it, that leaves the greater impression.

The passive aggressive person makes you regret asking even when they help you. So it is important to reflect not just on are we doing the right thing but are we doing it in the best way.

As Liberal Democrats we signed up to three core values Liberty, Equality and Community – how are we building these or indeed communicating these values? The twist is that most people prefer to talk about real things they can …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Opinion: The hidden costs of pushing parents to conform

I heard odd things yesterday.  Talk of getting women back into the workplace by subsidising childcare for all parents – and this after means testing child benefit.

Then someone proposed that all child carers should have good GCSE Maths & English whilst increasing ratios! How did the human race survive before academic qualifications? Here we have another narrowing of work opportunities for people who are not so hot at academic stuff.

To add to my indignation, I heard someone say on the radio that only working parents provide a positive role model  for children and that “non-working” parents don’t contribute to the …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Opinion: Strong communities are the key to reducing anti-social behaviour

From littering to binge drinking to sexual harassment, as a society we suffer when individuals show a lack of restraint and self-discipline when interacting with each other and with their local environment.

How many women do you know who have suffered sexual harassment? From wolf whistles in the street to full-on physical harassment, too many of my female friends don’t feel safe to walk down the street at night, and, more often than not, have experienced harassment of some kind in

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

The Independent View: Participatory democracy and the People’s Budget

It’s budget season and here’s a question ….

Is it an exaggeration to claim that there is a crisis in our system of democracy? When so many people don’t bother to vote and there are communities in the UK which no longer have any faith in the willingness of parliament and local government to address their needs and concerns, to actually represent their interests, then I think not. However, the direction of the coalition government’s policy is avowedly towards greater accountability and a stronger role for local people in decisions about local services.

The reality is that, despite the rhetoric about localism …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

Andrew Stunell MP writes… “Creating the Conditions” – the Coalition’s Approach to Integration

Today I was delighted to launch the long awaited Integration Strategy “Creating the Conditions” – the Coalition’s blueprint for improving community cohesion and developing neighbourhoods and communities across the country. Last summer’s riots gave a severe jolt to any thought that social alienation was a thing of the past. Couple that with the tide of marches and demonstrations by the far-right English Defence League and it is clear there are still enduring problems of cohesion and integration in communities up and down the land. If we fail to tackle those problems we not only face more flash points, we will …

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Time Banking: A simple route to community spirit?

Ever since my unsuccessful council by-election campaign in November I’ve had a burning desire to ask more positive questions of the electorate in the run-up to my next council election in May. What kind of volunteering might you be interested in getting involved in? What kind of skills do you have that you might like to pass on to others in the community? What interests and hobbies might you like to share with your neighbours? I had notions of gathering this data together and then signposting voters to voluntary groups or suggesting they get together with others who share their …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments
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