2015 Policy Motion: Local Government

Proposer: Stuart  Weir
Seconder: Finola Kelly

Final text as amended:

Unlock Democracy believes that central government exerts too much power over local authorities; that the time has come to restore local democracy and to give the powers and resources of local authorities constitutional protection; and that changes to the structures of local and regional governance should be governed by participative processes fully involving the public. The electoral system used for local government in England and Wales is even more unrepresentative than that used for the House of Commons, and should be reformed alongside devolution.

Accordingly, this annual general meeting recommends that Unlock Democracy campaigns to reform the electoral system used for local government and protect its powers, as well as exposing the falsity of the current ‘localism’ agenda which in fact reinforces central control.  The underlying emphasis should be on the need for a constitutional settlement for local democracy, along the lines of the Council of Europe Charter for Local Self Government, in keeping with UD’s over-arching aim of a written constitution.

At a time of intense political change it is important that Unlock Democracy should mount an effective cutting-edge public campaign on a matter of significant and widespread concern. We must also be mindful of the limitations of the resources available to the organisation.  We believe that Unlock Democracy can draw upon considerable resources from outside the office to run a successful “steering not rowing” campaign.

Local government is a contentious area of considerable government activities and high profile issues that will run over a long period over which to campaign.  In many cases – e.g., in local government reorganisation and in policies in housing, schools, social care, etc – the exercise of strong & controversial central government power in matters of wide public concern will give the organisation continuous opportunities to press home the case for restraining this power and asserting the need for local democratic decision-making.  This is not a matter of partisan argument.  Both major parties over decades have exercised undue power over local government; and we will be arguing a democratic case, not a party partisan argument as between governments.

We recognise that there are a number of powerful allies – institutions, associations and individuals  active in public debate – including UD members and sources of active and engaged research capacity & factual back-up that could support Unlock Democracy in a variety of ways and that we could work with, alongside our own campaigning activities.

The motion, as amended, passed.


Original text:

Unlock Democracy believes that central government exerts too much power over local authorities; that the time has come to restore local democracy and to give the powers and resources of local authorities constitutional protection; and that changes to the structures of local and regional governance should be governed by participative processes fully involving the public.

Accordingly, this annual general meeting recommends that Unlock Democracy makes the reform and protection of local government the centrepiece of its campaigning activities and exposes the falsity of the current ‘localism’ agenda which in fact reinforces central control.  The underlying emphasis should be on the need for a constitutional settlement for local democracy, along the lines of the Council of Europe Charter for Local Self Government, in keeping with UD’s over-arching aim of a written constitution.

At a time of intense political change it is important that Unlock Democracy should mount an effective cutting-edge public campaign on a matter of significant and widespread concern. We must also be mindful of the limitations of the resources available to the organisation.  We believe that Unlock Democracy can draw upon considerable resources from outside the office to run a successful “steering not rowing” campaign.

Local government is a contentious area of considerable government activities and high profile issues that will run over a long period over which to campaign.  In many cases – e.g., in local government reorganisation and in policies in housing, schools, social care, etc – the exercise of strong & controversial central government power in matters of wide public concern will give the organisation continuous opportunities to press home the case for restraining this power and asserting the need for local democratic decision-making.  This is not a matter of partisan argument.  Both major parties over decades have exercised undue power over local government; and we will be arguing a democratic case, not a not a party partisan argument as between governments.

We recognise that there are a number of powerful allies – institutions, associations and individuals  active in public debate – including UD members and sources of active and engaged research capacity & factual back-up that could support Unlock Democracy in a variety of ways and that we could work with, alongside our own campaigning activities.