Councillor Question Time – Local Democracy Week

It was Local Democracy Week  last week. One of the key aims of the week is getting young people involved in democracy. Warwickshire VOX and Members of the Youth Parliament are elected each year by young people and do a great job of representing the views of young people and campaigning on the issues that matter to young people in Warwickshire.

We’ve blogged here before about Councillors engaging with VOX and MYPs, and we thought we should build on the success of our previous events.

We thought it would be great to bring together the VOX and MYPs and some of our Councillors for a Question Time event – putting our Councillors on the spot and giving VOX and MYPs a chance to hold them to account – any they really did!

We selected four Councillors from across the County to form our panel – Alan Farnell (Leader of the County Council), Richard Cheney, Mike Gittus and Tim Naylor.

The MYPs and VOX didn’t hold back on questions – about cuts to the  youth service, transport to sixth forms and colleges, careers advice in schools, and the minimum wage for 16 year olds.

We had a good debate online with some of the young people  as well, who were reporting on the event as well:

The event went really well. In listening to the young people discuss issues with the Councillors you could see that they have a lot in common – both are elected to represent the views of others, and campaign for the issues of local people.

I’m confident that we’ll be blogging on here soon about the other ways our Councillors will be engaging with young people about the issues they face, and how the Council can try to address them. If you’ve got any ideas about how we can do this – leave us a comment below!

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

We blogged recently about the government’s drive to localism, which is aiming to put power back in the hands of local people. But power is nothing without information…

…which is why we’re now publishing all of the Council’s proposed decisions online.

For the first time, we now have a live list of all the decisions and reports due to be considered by Elected Members over the coming months – fully accessible to the public.

By publishing this information live on our website, we are promoting a more open and transparent County Council that encourages residents to engage with us and get more involved in decision making.

Crucially, it also allows residents to see which decisions are due to be held in private, and gives them opportunity to challenge us on why those decisions can’t be made in an open public meeting. We think the Secretary of State would approve.

So where is it?

The decisions list is available on our Council and Democracy pages and is accessible to everyone. It can be sorted according to your preference, making it easy to find the information you’re interested in.

For example, if you want to know what’s likely to be on the next Cabinet agenda, simply sort the list by “Meeting Date” and scroll down to the Cabinet section. Or if you want to look for decisions related to the Fire Service, sort the list by “Group” and scroll down to the Fire and Rescue Service section.

Please do let us know what you think.

Do you think the Council is open and transparent?

Are you able to find the information that you need from us?

What else could we do to make things more accessible?

Could you run a Local Authority service better?

A recent change in legislation allows local people to challenge the Local Authority on who runs local services. It’s called the “Community Right to Challenge”. But what’s it all about?

The term “localism” has been pushed very had by the current government. Ministers have made changes to all sorts of legislation with a promise to “hand power back to local people”.

For example, just last week at Conservative Party Conference, the Home Secretary spoke about changing the law so victims of crime can choose the perpetrator’s punishment.

The biggest push for localism, however, has come from the Department for Communities and Local Government – the people in Westminster who essentially tell Local Authorities like us what to do.

The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles MP, has been quick to drive through the Localism Act 2011 (you can read a Plain English guide here), which promises to give local people power over their communities. The Act allows people to:

  • shape their local development plans
  • call a local referendum on certain issues
  • bid for the ownership and management of community assets
  • get involved in the delivery of Local Authority services

This last bullet point relates to a particular part of the Act called the “Community Right to Challenge”. It allows people to express an interest in running a Local Authority service in a different or more effective way. If this expression of interest is accepted (as you’d expect, there are various criteria to be met), the Local Authority must then open up a tendering exercise for that service.

The Community Right to Challenge came into effect over the Summer, and Warwickshire County Council has recently published its guidance and timetable. This page also includes contact details, so you can get in touch if you have any questions.

Everything we do is Democracy – but this is Local Democracy Week

This week (15th – 19th October) is European Local Democracy Week. What does this mean?

Here at Warksdemocracy we help support your local County Councillors in their roles as your representatives and community champions, so that they can represent your views and deal with residents’ problems.

But our job is also to help you get directly involved that the decisions that affect you – whether by coming to meetings and telling Councillors directly, signing a petition, or writing to your Councillors to let them know your views.

All of this happens every day, and we regularly have public questions at meetings and have plenty of petitions submitted, both traditional paper and via our ePetitions facility

Local Democracy Week is all about making that extra push to get people involved in the decisions that affect them, with a particular focus on young people.

We’re taking the opportunity to let members of the public know about the various ways they can get involved in the work of Council.  Nearly all of the Council’s meetings are held in public, and you find out about future meetings, and download past reports and minutes here.

Before making any major decisions, the Council consults local people first.  All of the current consultations can be found on our consultation pages. You can also sign up to receive emails when consultations are launched.

We’ll be blogging more about Local Democracy Week as the week goes on, and tweeting from our public meetings this week. In the meantime you can find our more information about Councillors, Petitions, Elections and Democracy on our website.

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