Oban group is formed to ex­am­ine fail­ings in ‘bro­ken’ lo­cal democ­racy

The Oban Times - - News -

OPIN­ION

THE Peo­ple’s Coun­cil is an Oban-based vol­un­tary group whose mem­bers be­lieve lo­cal democ­racy in Ar­gyll and Bute is bro­ken.

The group meets fort­nightly to ex­per­i­ment with new ways of de­ci­sion-mak­ing, has an on­go­ing se­ries of work­shops and talks, and is part of a na­tional coali­tion work­ing to­wards bet­ter lo­cal democ­racy (www. our democ­racy. scot ).

How much say do you feel you have in how your town, is­land or vil­lage is run? For most of us, lo­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing is a mys­tery. A whop­ping 96 per cent of res­i­dents feel un­in­formed about de­ci­sions be­ing taken on our be­half, while 73 per cent of us feel like we have no in­flu­ence on de­ci­sions which af­fect our towns, places and homes.

So why are we so out of the loop?

Well, first, there’s the size of lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Scot­land. We have the big­gest coun­cil ar­eas in Europe, which means fewer rep­re­sen­ta­tives for more peo­ple. Lo­cal coun­cils on the con­ti­nent serve just 5,630 peo­ple on av­er­age. Ar­gyll and Bute serves 90,000 of us.

There is also the ques­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The voices of all 90,000 of us can as much flow through just 36 coun­cil­lors as Ni­a­gara Falls could flow through that burst pipe at the back of the Black Lynn.

On top of that, a quar­ter of the coun­cil­lors elected for the Oban area are ef­fec­tively frozen out of de­ci­sion-mak­ing be­cause of their party al­le­giance, while we reg­u­larly hear the rest of them, who are meant to be in the loop on our be­half, ex­press­ing be­muse­ment and dis­may at coun­cil de­ci­sions over which they ap­par­ently had no say but which have a huge im­pact on the lives of those they were elected to rep­re­sent.

If we have no in­flu­ence over de­ci­sions be­ing made on our be­half, and if the coun­cil­lors we elect to rep­re­sent us are not in­volved in mak­ing them, we have to ac­cept that the cur­rent sys­tem is bro­ken.

So what can we do about it? We want to cre­ate a sys­tem of lo­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing from the ground up which is truly lo­cal, de­signed by the peo­ple who use it and open to all. Through work­ing to­gether and learn­ing as we go, we want to gain the con­fi­dence we need to trust our­selves and each other to know what is best for our own com­mu­ni­ties. We want to re­mem­ber we are pow­er­ful.

We be­lieve that our com­mu­ni­ties will flour­ish when we have con­trol over our own lives and a say in the de­ci­sions which af­fect us.

No­body knows what we think, want or need bet­ter than we do. So if you want to join the con­ver­sa­tion, ask ques­tions and take ac­tion, join us for the next meet­ing of the Peo­ple’s Coun­cil at 7.30pm on Tues­day July 11 at the Rock­field Cen­tre, Oban. All are wel­come.

For our next pub­lic work­shop, Glas­gow-based rap­per, po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and writer Loki (aka Dar­ren McGar­vey) will be talk­ing about how poverty acts as a bar­rier to democ­racy on Sun­day July 16, from noon to 2pm at the Rock­field Cen­tre.

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