This action research project explores campaigns for democratising local governance. Together with collaborators in Sheffield and Glasgow, we look at the strategies campaigners and community groups have used to tackle the democratic deficit and identify more democratic forms of governance at the city level. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in the world, voter turnout in local elections is low, and many local authorities are simply badly governed, as our work with citizen auditors has shown.
For this project, we are working with campaigners in Sheffield, It’s Our City!, who spoke to over 20,000 people about governance when collecting signatures for a petition, triggering a referendum to scrap the position of the directly elected mayor and return to a more democratic committee model.
We are also working with Solidarity Against Neoliberal Extremism in Glasgow. They are organising for a People’s Plan for Glasgow, envisioning with citizens and campaigners what their city would look like. They are also organising towards assemblies inspired by international examples of ‘municipalism’. In recent years across Europe and the US, there has been a renewed focus on the local as a space to build democracy, and social movements have converged into political platforms to take power in their cities and towns.
In addition to research, we aim to build and strengthen alliances of groups that might work together in the future to organise and campaign for more radical and democratic governance at the local level. We see this project – running until Spring 2023 – as a springboard towards wider collaborations in the local democracy space, and are also working with an artist to ensure that our findings are engaging, accessible and essay to distribute.