My written words are slightly diverted at the moment by a series of Top Tips on revitalising local democracy on the Transition network blog. The more I engage with the work of Frome’s Town Council – and as Mayor meet sections of the community I have not before – the more I feel this is the crucial focus: enabling people at community level to be properly heard.
Sometime soon I will switch to positive news of a New Dawn for Democracy, but first a brief comment on my encounters with life somewhere else. Last week we brought local councillors from nearby Parishes together to meet each other and to hear of an opportunity to compete for EU money aimed at supporting rural areas. The Powerpoint contained a lot of words but it slowly emerged the money pot contained pretty little money. It also emerged that this is tightly linked to projects aimed at economic growth and that the economy is all about money. Just money. Nothing that might benefit the environment, wellbeing or anything social. This narrow outlook misses key opportunties and frequently results in a nett loss in term sof everything but income.
Repeatedly I see reality at a community level moving in one direction, with real energy and verve and the juggernaut of the past chugging towards the rocks. This month’s Transition Network asks ‘Is Transition political’ and I will unashamedly pinch a quote from Rob Hopkins’ blog which summarises where I want to be and where I want Frome and other local communities to be: Read More
This week’s local elections have seen an almost total collapse of the BNP. Depending on how you do figures, they have also seen a decrease in UKIP, or marginal increase…. The Europeal elections see the same BNP collapse and an surprisingly small increase in people voting UKIP. European elections saw an even lower turnout than last time…so as usual most people voted I DON’T CARE.
But does the hype around UKIP, the Pan European rise in the Far Right, and fear of this amongst the 90% who didn’t vote UKIP, mean more people at community level who do care are likely to get involved? In Flatpack, I make the case that there has never been a better time for this. My fellow ifF councillor Toby Eliot sent me this on the subject:
Over the last few weeks a significant minority of the posts in my Facebook feed have been informing me how bad UKIP are. It’s not just one point being made; I’ve been tutored on the antics of bizarrely behaved candidates (where do they find them?), crazy policies rolling back civil rights and a frightening level of open intolerance. The information has arrived in a variety of formats including bold info graphics, parodies of election leaflets and links to more in-depth articles.
Please note this fine fence. Featured not only on a field in Frome, but also in the Telegraph last week. Some months ago a field on the edges of Frome came up for sale by action. Some of the many people who had used it for years to walk their dogs, pick blackberries, picnic and do country stuff, got together to raise funds to buy the land. However, there wasn’t time to do this before the auction. So they asked the District council to intervene using their fine new powers of Localism to hold up the sale for 6 months while the people tried to raise enough loot. Read More
I’ve been to a couple of meetings recently which perfectly illustrate two areas I cite in the book as going wrong.
The first was billed as a ‘consultation’ on sports provision in the town, put on by the District Council who own land on which sports happen, contract out sports provision, and have a top level strategy. Half a dozen cabinet members at the high table start off by telling us there is no money and there won’t be; they are already well on the way to a new long term contract for the sports centre; and we can talk about anything else we like. A few representatives of under facilitated sports pluck up courage and put over their views. We are promised a report – and some weeks later there is no sign of anything.
Some of the early feedback from those fine souls who have read all of Flatpack Democracy revolves around whether Independents for Frome (ifF) is, or is not, a POLITICAL PARTY. Marcus Letts (of the United Diversity coop) picks no bones: ‘As you clearly observe, Independents for Frome is a political party’. Simon Carter (an independent councilor for Just Tewkesbury) is equally clear: ”…..come on Peter, you are a party….”. They are not necessarily citing this as a problem, but that my lack of clarity on this issue makes it harder to get over what we have tried to do in Frome as well as potentially confusing both readers and voters. Read More
I’m unconvinced it’s an especially British trend to reject change. If you look around the so called ‘democracies’ of the world, the vast majority of them operate in the same way as each other, and in the same way as they have done for many years. As a town councillor I’ve been shocked over the last 3 years by the difference between how we make decisions in the council and in our families and communities. Politics at too many levels starts with confrontation and looks for a winner, while in the rest of life we constantly seek agreement and compromise. Read More
Tipping points, when we are talking Climate Change are not good news – it’s the last little thing that tips us over the brink and into the unknown. But it’s a positive tipping point I’m seeking with Flatpack. That will be when we sell or give away a copy which results in a big enough group of people out there who have actually read the book and are interested in discussing the issues. That’s why we ran the Radical Walk and Launch, Read More
Launching Flatpack is now underway. Hunting Raven Bookshop in Frome have copies to sell – and you can order through The Book on this site. Over 130 ‘Likes’ and 1800 viewings on Facebook, pre-orders through this site, and a great article in the Frome Standard…. in which I rather like the picture as it has me sharpening knives. Twitter account building a head of steam and bookings for the Official launch with the Radical Walk, which is nearly full – check Resources/Launch Events to see if there are spaces. The splendid Bread Print and Roses will be running another walk during the Frome Festival in July as well as different walks in Totnes and Bath in early May – details in the link above. Read More