This paper from the Social Market Foundation suggests that if the Government’s Community Empowerment strategy doesn’t change, the disconnection between citizens and government will only get worse. It argues that although the Government’s intentions are laudable, the structures put into place aren’t tackling the problems.
The holy grail of greater community involvement has come to be seen as a panacea for many social ills including reducing crime, improving public health and reinvigorating democracy. However despite the rise in participatory opportunities, the reasons for people’s disconnection from representative government and distrust of representatives remain. Citizens, with limited free time, have heavy demands placed on them if they participate, only to become even more disillusioned when it becomes clear they do not have the power to really change anything.
An alternative policy would be to strengthen links to representative democracy, by empowering councillors at the local authority and parish levels, where lines of accountability and contact between citizens and representatives can be made clear. The paper proposes an extension of parish councils in both rural and urban areas, which could provide a crucial element of reconnection.
The paper is available from the Foundation. www.smf.co.uk