Antidote to Sir Humphrey

Welcome to this blog. I’ve not written a blog for a number of years since the now forgotten ‘Overview and Scrutiny at Newcastle-under-Lyme’ reached its zenith of twenty readers. So, this is my second attempt at blogging about local democracy. 

Why local democracy?

I spend most of my time supporting local democracy. At least that is what my job title would imply. I work for a small district council and I’m responsible for

  • the administration of elections (making sure you get your postal vote or can go to a polling station), 
  • electoral registration (making sure you are eligible to vote), and 
  • overseeing the decision making process (making sure that decisions are transparent, sound and subject to scrutiny by you).

That represents the bulk of what I do, which makes me an enabler of local democracy.

I attended the brilliant ‘Local Democracy for Everyone’ event in Huddersfield on Saturday, which brought together likeminded individuals with enthusiasm and passion for building robust local democracy. Check out #NotWestminster to get more detail on the discussions throughout the day. 

The key message I’ve taken away from the event is that local democracy is not about structures and rules, which preoccupies electoral administrators and committee clerks across the land, but it is something more dynamic and less rigid. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but the perception that a little more than 50% of electors marking a ballot paper annually would represent healthy local democracy is mistake. Elections are a form of participation, but democracy doesn’t end there. 

As a starting point, strong local democracy has to be based on a culture that encourages engagement beyond the ballot box. I will be blogging more about this in the future. 

#NotWestminster is not the conclusion of the conversation. It will be seen as important stage in the development of ideas that bring together the potential of technology, the possibilities of democracy and the importance of the local dimension – an antidote to the Whitehall knows best attitude of the past century. 

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