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