Monday, 22 October 2018

Towns need to be run completely differently

Our high streets are in trouble:
Futures Forum: Is it the end of the road for the High Street?

Central government could help:
Futures Forum: How to revive the health of Sidmouth's high street >>> East Devon MP's on-line survey

And the council could perhaps be doing something:
Futures Forum: Save our high streets: "Isn’t it time our council did an audit and come up with a strategy for their future?"
Futures Forum: Councils and business rates: "their short-term focus on raking in money could end up destroying town centres weighed down by huge tax burdens"

As could the wider community and businesses:
Futures Forum: The shift in economic importance away from the high street "represents an opportunity for policymakers, businesses and communities to proactively choose a new direction"
Futures Forum: The 'Amazon tax' won't save the High Street > 'The nature of the offer on the high street is going to change over time. There's going to be less retail, more leisure, bars, community facilities.'
Futures Forum: How to revive the health of high streets > "We want vibrant centres in our cities and towns. But not streets lined with identical collections of outlets of the same chain retailers. Think of high streets as community hubs rather than shopping malls."

One place where things are happening is Frome:
Futures Forum: "Time for a change! What’s happening in local politics" >  
Futures Forum: Frome becomes Best Place to Live in the Southwest - again
Futures Forum: FLATPACK DEMOCRACY >>> sharing a vision of how we can change the status quo > 

The Guardian's John Harris has been looking:

Towns need to be run completely differently

 Flatpack democracy: the new English political revolt

The Somerset town of Frome is 14 miles from Bath and has a population of around 25,000, split between relatively recent incomers attracted to its newly fashionable reputation and people whose backgrounds reach back into the town’s industrial past and its recent experience of neglect and hardship.
Frome has pioneered a new idea known as “flatpack democracy”, centred on the town and parish councils that form the English system of government’s lowest tier. We explored it two years ago.
The idea has two key elements. First, it aims at running as many local amenities and services as possible from the absolute grassroots. Second, and equally important, it is about opening up decision-making to the maximum level of local participation. As the idea’s inventor, Frome councillor Peter Macfadyen, puts it: “There are other town councils where the clerk walks in first, and the members stand, the mayor comes in behind, and they then say a prayer. The public have to write in beforehand, saying they want to speak. And it’s all just lost in some sort of Victorian past. It’s just insane.”
The idea of flatpack democracy, or something very like it, has been adopted in towns and villages in Bedfordshire, Devon and Cheshire. In the small northern city of Preston, an energetic Labour council is blazing a trail for something comparable but even more ambitious: the so-called Preston model of local government, whereby as much council spending as possible is aimed at boosting the local economy. Since the Brexit referendum, we have regularly wondered whether these ideas could be tried in the kind of towns whose experiences of deindustrialisation, political neglect and latter-day austerity have all highlighted the extent to which one their biggest issues is power, and the lack of it.
Wherever we go, with good reason, most people we meet have no sense of which bit of government is responsible for this or that aspect of their lives – only that the forces making the decisions are remote, seemingly unaccountable and rarely interested in where they live. Many urban areas have been recently boosted by the creation of “city regions” governed by “metro mayors”; in Scotland and Wales, devolution has brought power closer to people’s lives. In most English towns, by contrast, systems of power and accountability are pretty much as they were 40 years ago.
What this does to people’s connection with politics is clear. To quote a report by the recently founded thinktank the Centre for Towns, “on average, people living in cities are much less likely to believe that politicians don’t care about their area. Those living in towns are, in contrast, more likely to think politicians don’t care about their area – and won’t in the future.”
There lies the biggest issue of all. The future of our towns will only partly be decided by the high-octane rituals of Westminster debate, and general elections. What really matters is whether they might finally run a much greater share of their own affairs – and, to coin a memorable slogan, take back control.

“Politicians may finally be catching on: towns now hold the key to Britain’s future” | East Devon Watch
Politicians may finally be catching on: towns now hold the key to Britain's future | Cities | The Guardian

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