Local Democracy Week is an annual event celebrated in Local Government. Events are organised by local authorities to foster the knowledge of local democracy and promote the idea of democratic participation. Local Democracy Week dates back to 1985, typically a ‘theme’ for the week is chosen by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Events organised can include poster campaigns, blogging, public meetings, exchanges, open days or specifically targeted events for different groups.
The primary goals behind LDW is
to strengthen links between elected representatives and their communities,
to boost participation in the democratic process,
to involve citizens in community affairs,
to increase knowledge of local democracy,
to have local authorities that listen and understand the needs of their communities.
There are various websites that can tell you more about why democracy matters and how you can get more active in your community, the main two key websites are “Democracy Matters” and “be a Councillor”
In terms of how a Local Authority can celebrate during Local Democracy Week, I have been touting the following ideas to my Management Team:
Political Leader Tour of Thorpe Lodge
Our council offices are based at Thorpe Lodge, the Lodge has a huge amount of history that has interested a number of local groups. Providing a public tour of the lodge, dispensing some historic facts about the building and how the Council came to be is a good way of raising awareness of local value. My idea included the political group leaders or just the Council Leader to facilitate the tour giving a guided tour to the public over 40 minutes around Thorpe Lodge, describing its history and significant milestones in the authority’s development in the last 40 years. Members of the public also able to ask them questions about their role as a councillor. Free entry at scheduled times.
Every year, around this time, my authority hosts its Parish and Town Council AGM. I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific in terms of agenda items, but I suggested using the agenda to promote local democracy and how democracy shapes local communities.
Workshop with Voluntary Services – “Getting your Point Across”
A workshop designed to talk about giving speakers techniques to be able to communicate effectively. It includes information on elements such as body language, managing anxiety and avoiding conflict. Or Decisions, decisions, what makes Broadland tick?’, that is designed to give an insight into who makes decisions about aspects of life in Broadland, from health and policing to the collection of rubbish and leisure and entertainment. Either workshop would be open to community groups and interested residents, hosted in the Council Chamber.
Coffee with a councillor
Working with a handful of Councillors available to host a ‘coffee and cake’ morning within their parish area. These would be drop in sessions for the public to come and talk to them about local issues etc. Supported by an Officer who can scribe where necessary and some ‘visual minutes’ or infographics produced afterwards. The purpose of recording the questions asked would help the Council identify any common issues across parishes that need addressing.
Set up a series of 1 hour hotseats with Cabinet Members and Key Committee Chairman. This builds on the existing proposal to run occasional Hotseats throughout the year. Questions would be submitted in advance as well as during the hour. Councillors would be supported by appropriate Officers to help them on social media
What Broadland does for me
Members who use Twitter, the @BroadlandDC and @ScrutinyBDC feeds tweet throughout the week “What did @BroadlandDC do for me today…” and give examples of what public work the Council has carried out on that day e.g. bin collections in specific parishes, approval of payments etc. This could showcase the work the council does and highlight the public services we deliver. It can also help our customers understand what we don’t do. Moreover, it also raises our profile of achievements and successes.
Mini Leader for a day – Children from local schools submit a story stating what they would do if they were a Council Leader for a day. The winning entry, picked by the Leader, would be invited to shadow the Leader for one day during the LDW.
Question Time – Schools invited to host a ‘Question Time’ event, a panel of our Councillors attend the event at the school, questions submitted, includes a mock vote and debate. Timing chosen by school so could be ‘after hours’ not interrupting lessons.
Never mind the Ballots! – informal chat with people who make things happen in Broadland, whether they are local Councillors, community activists or just ordinary residents who want to make things better in their area. Hosted at Broadland (evening event), could cover topics such as helping to run a community group, coming together with other residents to tackle a problem or campaigning for a new play park.
Make a difference, be a councillor – Councillors have a powerful influence on the decisions that affect Broadland. Almost any British Citizen over 18 can be a Councillor. A free workshop, in conjunction with Voluntary Services, would take you through what's involved, including Question and Answer sessions with a councillor and some of the council staff who support them.
Design a poster - Children in Broadland invited to design a poster encouraging people to vote. The posters will be on display throughout Local Democracy Week in Libraries and public places. Either the Returning Officer would choose the best poster or a ‘vote’ from each exhibition taken and the winning poster is used to publicise the next local elections