Monday, 24 October 2011

Taking Decision Making Closer to the People

The Tory/Lib Dem coalition talk about their 'localism' agenda, but in reality all we have seen is Eric Pickles telling councils when they must empty their bins, or on the other hand we are told 'localism' will mean more say for communities but in reality again it means we will allow developers able to build what they want, where they want.

In Ipswich we have for a number of years tried to enable the local community to have more say in local decisions, we currently have area forums, these have had success in getting information over to local residents but they have not had any real power. Councillors have attended but not been put in a position where they can answer to the public for the deeds they have carried out. There has been money available to each forum area but both local councillors or residents have had no real say in how that is spent. Ipswich Labour had seen the influence of the forums wane under the last Tory administration where it seemed the power just sat in the hands of one person- not even the leader but John Carnall.

We have now started changing that, we have already seen the all party working groups have their first meetings, the one I attended worked well. It gave backbench councillors an opportunity to have a say in policy, and that was backbench councillors from all 3 party's. It was then slightly disappointing that the Tories did not attend two of the working groups.

Labour are keen to hear what local residents think about these new proposals, including area forums being replaced by area committees -Here is the statement from IBC.

Ipswich Borough Council is looking at ways of moving power closer to the people through an ambitious programme to give communities a real say.

"We are looking at options for devolving decision-making to the local level," says the Leader of the Council, Councillor David Ellesmere.

"This would involve ward councillors working with community groups, businesses and residents on a wide range of services, based geographically on the five existing forum areas.

"In order to deliver this, we have published for consultation a paper entitled 'Taking decision-making closer to the people'."
Among its key proposals are:

Developing local Area Committees to devolve specific powers to ward councillors.
Giving councillors more opportunities to be informed by residents and users on how services can be improved through Panels.
Giving backbench councillors a role in developing policies and advising the Executive on its forward plans through active Working Groups.
Making better use of new technology including websites, social networking and Twitter; to reach and engage new people and improve services.
Reducing the number of other meetings that take place, as we seek to focus decision and policy making in these new and cost effective bodies.

Councillor Ellesmere added: "I believe these changes could make a real difference to how Ipswich is run. They would enable councillors of all political parties to take a more active part in the running of the council and better able to represent their constituents."
More information is available in the report Taking Decision Making Closer to the People. Comments must be received by 11th November 2011 and should be submitted by email to or by post to:

Councillor David Ellesmere
Ipswich Borough Council
Grafton House
15-17 Russell Road

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