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COMMENT: Leaving the people out of the politics
10:30am Tuesday 10th April 2012 in Editorial Comment
WHEN area committees were scrapped by Oxford City Council a year ago, there was much debate about the effect it would have on local democracy.
Some raised concerns that scrapping the six monthly area committees and replacing them with quarterly area forums would harm community involvement.
And, inevitably, it now looks as though those concerns were correct.
A review has found the new system is “not working” – with the forums not attracting enough people and having less power.
City councillor Jim Campbell, who is looking into the issue, says officials need to show the public that coming to the forums can lead to actions, rather than just words.
And that’s essentially the heart of the issue.
Increasingly people seem to be turned off from local politics.
Often they struggle to find how it is relevant to them.
Now planning powers have been centralised and the frequency of meetings has been reduced it is no wonder people feel even more removed from the process.
Councillors must have known that at the time of the decision.
But of course there were other considerations – time, money and of course the political expedience of centralising decision making.
These may be good enough reasons in themselves.
However, it should be no surprise that people feel disenfranchised by the new system.
Until they know they can make a difference on the ground, that is unlikely to change.
Let’s hope the candidates lining up for your vote in next month’s local elections are able to demonstrate to the city’s electorate just how that can change.