FANDOM


This set of pages can be used to share and draft comment on Communities and Local Government's (CLG) Community Empowerment Action Plan. [1] They are intended to help pool responses particularly from the point of view of non government stakeholders concerned with local sustainability - independent sustainability forums, Local Agenda 21 groups, community based climate change groups, transition towns groups, etc. (Version as of 11 January sent by email to CLG with request for confirmation of receipt Philralph 16:52, 11 January 2008 (UTC)), confirmation email received, Philralph 11:07, 1 February 2008 (UTC)) (CLG comment deadline: January 19 2008).

Introduction and Quick guidelines Edit

(Introduction to follow)

  • Add in your comments. If any of the pages becomes too long it can be subdivided
  • Deletions: Do not delete other peoples comments (other than minor alterations eg grammar, spelling). Deletions can be proposed on the talk page - click on discussion tab at top of article
  • Attribution: If you sign in your edits will automatically be attributed to your user name via the article's history page. If you edit without signing in you have the option of signing content manually
  • Invitations to others to contribute can be copied to the talk page

General comments Edit

Use this section to summarise important points arising from comment to the main questions.

"The question now is how do we re-establish rules of the game that make it fair, make it meaningful to provide real efficacy for people - that's where we need to be thinking now - not shall we do it, but how do we do it. For me that has to be about a contract between the public and politicians that sets out very clear standards of engagement." Professor Stephen Coleman, November 2007 [2] topic

Integrating action on local sustainability and climate change Edit

Given that

  • CLG remit includes Sustainable Communities
  • Community Strategies should now be Sustainable Community Strategies
  • An arm of 'Together we Can' was 'Together we can secure the future'
  • Defra's new Departmental Strategic Objective to champion sustainable development across Government and nationally, from 1st April 2008
the action plan would be better if it made more specific reference to action on local sustainability and climate change, to emphasise the point that these are not optional extras for government.

Rebuilding trust and following through on Local Agenda 21 Edit

As part of obligations under a contract between the public and government, central government should insist that local government review progress as against Local Agenda 21 action plans (most of which were drawn up around a decade ago). It seems only fair that communities (some estimates say 97% of districts?) having invested in these should get some feedback to show that community involvement is treated seriously.

The Power of Information Edit

The action plan could better reflect the government's response to the Power of Information review[3]

Freeing up data for reuse Edit

The government in its response to the Power of Information review accepts in principle, subject to funding, recommendations 4, 8 and 11, regarding

  • encouraging innovation in the re-use of information by non - commercial users
  • improving government's responsiveness to demand for public sector information
  • improving the supply of government information for re-use

CLG should play a full part in freeing up data for reuse, not just performance data, but outcome data relating to all aspects of sustainable development and climate change, specifically including data relevant to local communities.

At the launch of the Guide for Policy Makers agreed by the IPCC in the run up to the Bali Conference, Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation said, "...societies need more detailed information about anticipated impacts at regional and local levels for responding and adapting to climate change, Individuals, enterprises and civil society cannot adapt autonomously without reliable information and projections, especially since they should make some of their investment choices well before the effects of climate change are fully visible." [4]

Online dialogue Edit

In line with its response to Recommendation 13 of the Power of Information review, which the government accepts, CLG should enable its civil servants to play a full part in online fora. It would be a positive step for CLG to make an explicit commitment to this.


Widening and deepening empowerment opportunities locally Edit

Q1 Which actions (Action Points 1 - 10) do you think are most important to increase empowerment in your community and why?

Action 1: Secure more citizen focused services Edit

The role of Local Strategic Partnerships in bringing stakeholders together Edit

There has been plenty of evidence that the community sector, including local sustainability and climate change groups, tend to feel excluded or marginalised by LSPs. The action plan appears to contain no specific proposals as to how this will be countered. Merely rewriting advice to local government seems wholly inadequate, as does relying on regional agencies to police arrangements. The same advice seems to have been given since Community Planning was introduced. It is not the advice that is at fault but that there appears to be no system or mechanism of enforcing inclusiveness. Similarly LSPs may not appear to have given much priority to the idea of accountability to their electorates or ordinary citizens.

Power of information Edit

Following on from the government's response to the Power of Information review, Defra and CLG should ensure similar principles are followed at the local level, and particularly in respect of local strategic partnerships. For example LSPs (as well as central government departments) should be clearly seen to

  • avoid duplication of existing user-generated material and/or ....complement citizen-led endeavours.
  • free up data and information for re-use - see also general comments
  • Enable local officials to participate in continuous dialogue - see also general comments

Reporting on inclusiveness Edit

LSPs should be required to report annually on

  • what proportion of their local populations have heard of the LSP and understand what its for and what it does
  • what proportion of their local populations feel able to influence local decisions affecting their quality of life via the LSP (a similar question to that which local government has to answer)
  • what stakeholders it involves, together with annual assessment by these stakeholders as to how satisfied they are with the process

All of this information should be freely available and free to re use.

Transparent LSP agenda and process Edit

All stakeholders need to be able to influence an LSPs agenda. More transparency is needed to ensure that some partners, such as local government don't dominate the whole process.

Sustainable Community Strategies Edit

It's difficult to see how these won't be largely just paper exercises, without genuinely inclusive and ongoing community involvement.

As part of obligations under a contract between the public and politicians, central government should insist that local government review progress as against Local Agenda 21 action plans. See also general comments.

Local accountability Edit

Government at all levels seems to persistently underestimate the potential of local civic society to drive up standards of local accountability, particularly concerning sustainable development. Local quality of life forums to advise, but independent of Local Strategic Partnerships, could for example be helped to develop locally chosen sustainability indicators and generally drive increases in transparency about progress.

The duty to involve Edit

This should be designed to enable a "continuous dialogue with all interested parties" as advocated by the The Phillis report [5] Provision of information should include freeing it up for reuse - see also comments on LSPs above


Q2 What other actions do you think would help local people to participate more and have more influence in your community? (see Action Points: 1 - 10)

Rebuilding trust Edit

Face to face forums, if properly designed (open design, open to all stakeholders) and integrated with online networking, can be particularly useful in rebuilding trust and overcoming cynicism. Such forums would seem consistent with Recommendation 7 of the Power of Information review, which the government accepts.

In the context of local sustainability many stakeholders - ordinary citizens and community groups - got involved in Local Agenda 21 to produce action plans for the majority (one estimate is 97%?) of local districts. As this was around ten years ago, now would be a very good time for a thorough and systematic review of progress since these action plans. Such an exercise would also be a very good 'gesture of good faith' by local government. Lack of proper feedback on the last time citizens and community groups got involved in a reasonably big way only continues to fuel cynicism and mistrust.

Local quality of life forums Edit

There is perhaps also an argument for government supporting in some way or other the establishment (and ongoing sustainability) of all inclusive local sustainability (or quality of life) forums open to all stakeholders in every (local government District sized) community or LSP area.

Empowering local civic society to influence resources Edit

Research has shown that LSPs have in the past tended to ignore community groups (including for example Local Agenda 21 groups) because they are perceived as not bringing any ('real') resources to the table. For local sustainability groups to play a full role in LSPs a way needs to be found to persuade more establishment stakeholders and particularly local government to allow more genuine influence over what they see as real resources, which would appear to be consistent with CLG's advancement of participatory budgeting. Cisco in The Connected Republic 2.0: New Possibilities & New Value for the Public Sector, [6] uses the phrase 'empower the edge'.

Without some sort of local quality of life forum for each area it is difficult to see how there will be sufficient push factor, or where this would come from, to influence resources to meet the challenges of sustainability and climate change. [7]

Comments on other action points: Edit

  • Action 2: Implement the new Sustainable Communities Act.

There seems to be insufficient evidence that the bill was devised by a fully inclusive process and so the Act may not as effective as its sponsors hoped. It appears to rely heavily on a voluntary approach by local government which is arguably insufficient for genuine sustainability and effective action on climate change, and little if any advancement on existing wellbeing powers.

  • Action 4: Give citizens a greater role in planning

Following on from the government's response to the Power of Information review, Defra and CLG should ensure similar principles are followed at the local level. For example

  • avoid duplication of existing user-generated material and/or ....complement citizen-led endeavours.
  • free up data and information for re-use - see also general comments
  • Enable local officials to participate in continuous dialogue - see also general comments
  • Action 7: Establish citizens’ juries to help shape policy

In the context of local sustainable development citizens juries look tokenistic and exclusionary, especially compared to the more inclusive and open forums that were encouraged as part of Local Agenda 21. See also section above on rebuilding trust. The intent to make democracy more deliberative is good, but this must be open and inclusive. Design, agenda setting and terms of reference all need to be explicitly open to all interested parties. Citizens juries imply discontinuity in a variety of ways. For the purposes of local sustainability and climate change, in that these are not optional extras for government, Local quality of life forums (see comments to Action 1) are a better option.

  • Action 8: Require a response to petitions and ‘Community Calls for Action’

Whilst on the surface this seems positive, there may be concerns that it is essentially about reactive rather than proactive government. Properly inclusive and continuous dialogue with all interested parties would ordinarily forstall serious gaps developing between citizens and government.

  • Action 9:

It is not clear how it will be ensured that these arrangements will be inclusive of, and benefit all stakeholders, in particular local sustainability and climate change groups.

  • Action 10:

Following on from the government's response to the Power of Information review, Defra and CLG should ensure similar principles are followed at the local level. For example

  • avoid duplication of existing user-generated material and/or ....complement citizen-led endeavours.
  • free up data and information for re-use - see also general comments
  • Enable local officials to participate in continuous dialogue - see also general comments

Experimental partnerships between major departments and user-generated sites (Recommendation 1 of the Power of Information review which the government accepts): these could include LSPs and focus on climate change and the sustainability of communities.

Annual forums offer potential, particularly for recognition of the diversity of the Third sector (acknowledged as a need within DEFRA's consultation document, for example p.20, para 4), but ideally would be co-designed and integrated within a "continuous dialogue with all interested parties" as advocated by the The Phillis report [1] This continuous dialogue should aim to seamlessly integrate face to face and online networking, something that the sustainable community action wiki, for example, has the potential to help with.

One of the advantages of continuous dialogue is that a collective memory of an area or program can be built up. This can help learning and greatly reduce the need for 'reinventing the wheel' type occasions. One of the advantages of developing this via a not-for-profit type vehicle such as the sca wiki is that the learning remains available for reuse. (If in the hands of a private sector organisation this may not be ensured).


Supporting and enabling people to take up empowerment opportunities Edit

Q3 What other support would you like national and local government and the third sector to provide to help you take up local empowerment opportunities? (See Action Points: 11 - 20)

Free up data and information for re-use Edit

It is not clear if the information to be provided, (for example by NEP, Action 11) will be free to reuse. It is suggested that for all the actions involving active citizens and community groups (11, 13, 15 - 20) it should be.

Dialogue needs to be continuous Edit

For example in relation to Actions 15 and 13. See also comment on Action 10.

Integrate sustainability and action on climate change Edit

For example the remit of community anchor organisations, Action 18, could explicitly incorporate these. See also comments on Local accountability in response to Action 1.

Measuring empowerment outcomes Edit

It's of course vital that indicators reflect what citizens and communities themselves feel about how empowered they are (outcome rather than performance data). See also comments on Reporting on inclusiveness and Local accountability in response to Action 1.


Strengthening local representative democracy Edit

Q4 What other ways would you suggest would help to encourage more people to get involved in local democracy? (See Action Points: 21 - 23)


Q5 Can you suggest any other ways to increase people's opportunity to be engaged with their local area?

Local quality of life forums Edit

See comment to Q2. There are is evidence to suggest that citizens are ahead of government in response to local sustainability and climate change issues. Opportunities via Local quality of life forums could be a popular, relevant and highly meaningful way to re-invigorate local democracy,

Contract between the public and government Edit

Although no doubt a concordat between central and local government is relevant to local government, the quote from Professor Stephen Coleman (under general comments) suggests a greater priority is the understanding (trust) between active citizens plus community groups and government over clear standards of engagement. (With central / local government relations a relative detail).

It's noticeable that the action plan does not seem to attempt such a contract, viewing government holistically as some citizens might.


Related topics Edit

References Edit

  1. Communities and Local Government, October 19
  2. designingforcivilsociety, November 12 2007
  3. Comment on This
  4. UNEP, November 17 2007
  5. Cabinet Office news
  6. The Connected Republic 2.0: New Possibilities & New Value for the Public Sector
  7. Councils can play a major role in tackling climate change, but many have failed to put appropriate strategies and action plans in to place, a new report by the Local Government Association Independent Climate Change Commission says, Friends of the Earth, December 5 2007

Glossary Edit


SCA Wiki - Places, projects & networks - Ideas Bank - News - Diary - Resources - Community / Avoid adverts

Ad blocker interference detected!


Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.