It was the final Smith Square debate of 2012 last night and I think they may well have saved the best to last.
There was some interesting discussion (and shock) it actually felt as though there was some debate and not 100% unequivocal mutual agreement!
No one has a crystal ball but I don't think the skills of Mystic Meg are required to predict that local government needs to be well prepared for the challenge of unprecedented change. The general feeling from the panel and audience was that whilst the challenges will be tough, it provides councils a great opportunity to be innovative, to do things a bit differently and take the risks that perhaps previously they would have been too comfortable to dare try.
Its success was, I think, down to a good panel chaired by Jeremy Cliffe of The Economist:
Don Foster MP
, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government
Melani Oliver, Head of the Creative Councils Programme, Nesta
The panel were up for a proper discussion and I think there is scope to build on this in the next series and see a little more Question Time style drama...
Just on Question Time, if you managed to hear Eric Pickles on Desert Island Discs, you'll have heard him admit that his appearance on the panel discussion show was not his finest hour - you can judge for yourself below. The format is not without its faults, but it provides a useful opportunity for the public to hold to account national politicans and perhaps its something that the Smith Square debates of the future could do for local democracy.
PS: If you're interested I have done a word cloud from last night's tweets - enjoy! :)