Power through participation
In London, there are already some inspiring examples of people involved activities such as running childcare co-ops, setting up community energy programmes, and being involved in local residents associations. Some of these activities are run by communities, for communities. Others involve a partnership between citizens and the state. One of the biggest opportunities to shift power would be for it to become the norm for people to participate on equal terms in deciding about, designing and running public services. Making this the standard way of operating public services would also reduce the risk of inequalities emerging between communities when some have the resources (time, money, expertise) to ensure that they participate, and others don't.
Here are three ideas for how meaningful power sharing might become the new norm, rather than the exception, in London:
- Develop a fund to stimulate new models of control at a local level. Childcare and housing are two areas with promising examples of more co-operative models already established (and where London costs are much higher than the national average) – this experience could be expanded to other areas.
- Ensure that local authorities have a duty to support community led initiatives designed to share power and control over buildings, services or resources. This doesn't mean communities have to pick up the pieces of services that will otherwise be cut, but that they can ask for the local authority to support their initiatives with funding, staffing, buildings or other resources.
- Challenge elected councillors to develop stronger local networks of people who can come together and find common cause, supporting citizen led initiatives on what matters to them.
Julia Slay is Senior Researcher in Social Policy at the New Economics Foundation.