The People’s Statement

The following statement was written collaboratively out of a workshop at the first meeting of The People’s Council. This meeting took place on 6th June 2015 in Oban.

This final draft was published 17.6.2015.

Please add your name in support of this statement:

Local democracy is in crisis.

The People’s Council, established here today, is the first step in our challenge to this crisis.

We are calling for a radical reform of existing local power structures. The balance of political power belongs in the hands of the people, and local government must be run by the people and in the interests of the majority. This is not currently the case.

Our ‘local’ councils are regional at best. A combination of centralisation, unworkable scale, and financial emaciation (in the broader context of austerity and more specifically on account of unwieldy regional structures and limited tax and spending powers) has rendered them unfit for purpose.

We find that in Argyll & Bute council, there is a pathological culture of top down, authoritarian bullying. We note there are many well-intentioned, hard-working councillors and staff members, and we support and encourage them in their work. However, we find it unacceptable that ‘rubber stamping’ is common place, debate is kept to a minimum and information is guarded like capital.  Seats on committees are not awarded based on merit, but by way of rewarding loyalty to the administration as opposed to the citizens, and are taken away again on a whim and without explanation, most commonly to punish those who dare voice dissent.

There is a fundamental disconnect between the formal mechanisms of democracy and the actuality of power and control in our local authority for which we will no longer stand.

 

We demand that Argyll & Bute Council:

– Immediately halt the secretive, back room budget decision making surrounding ‘service choices’ and budget decisions.

– Order the formation of a Short Life Working Group to handle these budget decisions, conforming to the council’s standing orders regulations. Democracy must be accessible and visibly responsive to its citizens, and so members of the public must be allowed to observe and actively encouraged to make meaningful contributions to the budget process. All councillors should be given the opportunity to take part, and this should include the provision of relevant papers in proper time, giving ample opportunity to make informed and reasoned decisions.

– Reverse plans to reduce the number of councillors within Argyll & Bute from 36 to 33, and the de-funding and subsequent removal of local area committees. Any such move would be regressive, counter-productive, and act to further remove the citizens from the democratic process.

We will:

– Work to strengthen existing networks within Argyll & Bute, acting as one to ensure our demands are heard, and we will be prepared to escalate our campaign to include non-violent direct action if they are not met.

– Crowd-source a People’s Code of Conduct which makes clear how we expect our elected officials to act in office, and expect them to both endorse and uphold the finished product.

 – Lobby all parties standing candidates in the 2016 Scottish Elections to include robust policy on local democracy reform in their manifestos, including

– radical re-sizing of local authority areas to bring Scotland in line with European norms
– replacement of the regressive council tax with a progressive local tax based on income and/or land value
– meaningful community participation at all levels of decision-making
– commitment to gender balance
– the right to recall councillors who are not acting in the interests of communities they serve

We know that our problems here in Argyll & Bute are not unique, and so we will seek to support others to set up a national network of People’s Councils and take the fight to Holyrood, presenting a visionary, radical agenda for reform.

Please add your name in support of this statement:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s