Research for Action Summer Newsletter 2023


It’s been a while since we’ve been in touch, so this is a bumper Summer edition of our newsletter, with some beautiful posters centred on local community power, films and podcasts about radical municipalism across Europe, and some exciting developments in our work on local audit and accountability.

Democratising Governance

In March we launched one part of our project on democratising local governance in Sheffield and Glasgow; four posters by artist Reece Thompson centred on the themes of transparency, care, power and opposing austerity. Together with project partners from Solidarity Against Neoliberal Extremism (SANE) and It’s Our City! we examined the relationships between local governance and local activism. Through engaging with the landscapes of grassroots and community campaigns in each city, participants from both cities have been identifying common experiences, themes, and demands for a more democratic local governance, as well as the prospects for more collectivised action.Since these co-learning conversations, we have been busy collating these insights and identifying themes that arose. Stay tuned for more…. 

European Municipalist Network

Since early 2022 we have been involved with the European Municipalist Network. This phase of the project is now drawing to a close, and we’ve created a wide range of media together to help grow and learn from a diverse range of organising, from Zagreb to Glasgow. We enjoyed participating in skillshares organised by Commons Network and a range of other municipalist groups from across the Europe, and working with them to write up the sessions in a series of blog posts and podcasts. Last autumn, we went to Berlin to meet the other network members. As part of that meeting, together with Commonspolis we recorded a series of interviews which have been made into short films They offer great insight into the strategies, tactics and challenges of municipalist groups across Europe. Here’s one; 30min on Municipalist Chronicles: Strategies and Tactics.

Local Audit and Accountability

The Parliamentary Committee overseeing Levelling Up is conducting an inquiry into financial reporting and audit in local government. We submitted written evidence to the inquiry in April highlighting the lack of transparency in many local authorities as well as the structural problems with audit. As in our upcoming report, we argued that local audit should be centred on the public interest and an expansion of transparency in terms of private companies carrying out public services.  The report of the committee, which is expected to be highly critical of the Government’s lack of significant action on audit reform, will be published in the Autumn. We were quoted in an article in the Byline Times about the effective ‘collapse’ of local auditing in England. 

The Public Accounts Committee report on the timeliness of local auditing was also highly critical of the Government’s inaction, warning of knock-on effects of the audit backlog to the effective functioning of other parts of the state such as the NHS . More and more journalists and commentators are making the link between deep problems in the system of local audit and significant scandals over public money in local authorities like Thurrock and Woking.

What with all these things going on, we have started doing a monthly round-up of ‘Audit in the News’ – here’s June. 

Finally, our report, Local Audit: Why Public Interest Needs to Count will be released next month. It is both an analysis of the relationship between the current state of local government, austerity and privatisation and local audit specifically, and a set of principles and recommendations for how to do audit differently. We will send out more details on this in the next fortnight, and would love you to join us at our online launch and discussion event. Keep your eyes peeled.

Till soon,

Gloria, Megan and Fanny

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