STATEMENT OF INTENT
The intent of Municipal Enquiry is to undertake a one-off time-limited piece of collaborative work designed to contribute to a clearer and more widely shared understanding of what it will take to defend, support and develop more public spaces and processes for collective discussion, community level democratic decision making and public action for the common good.
Why is this enquiry needed now?
In the period ahead, the UK government is likely to shapeshift around a new agenda for ‘radical’ local reform and debate will once again heat up between professionals, politicians and grassroots activists about the relative effectiveness of different approaches to working at community and municipal level.
There is a huge risk in this context that the same undemocratic forces, unjust relationships and hierarchies that have harmed so many localities around the UK, over many years, combined with the acute lack of community based public spaces for collective discussion and decision making, will once again endanger possibilities for building more inclusive, participatory, solidaristic and equitable forms of community and municipal control.
What is the focus of Municipal Enquiry?
If it is increasingly untenable to ‘manage’ local ‘development’ in the UK using the same hierarchical, disrespectful and unjust approaches that have led communities into this current situation – so how are people and groups currently responding to what is now an urgent need for more participatory, just and democratic spaces for discussion, decision-making and public action in local settings?
Municipal Enquiry will examine the roles that local development professionals, community organisers, local government officials, politicians and charitable funders play - investigating the impacts of the hierarchies and differentials of power that still exist between them. It will look at these and other inequalities in local places - analysing how they interact with these processes of change. More widely, Municipal Enquiry will investigate the array of alternative and combined forms of grassroots, municipal and community power and the types of institutions, alliances and relationships that will be necessary to support a transition towards more equitable, politically democratic and environmentally just futures.
The aim is to involve key activists and practitioners in a collective conversation centering around three issues which we believe need further consideration as part of the current process of developing the ‘new radical municipalism’ in an English context, these are:
1. How do we make sure that conversations and development work linked to the ‘new radical municipalism’ has the broadest range of voices, isn’t dominated by those with the greatest power and that divisions of labour don’t simply reproduce existing power relationships?
2. What should be the role of professionals, experts and politicians in this democratisation process and what do these existing actors need to do to create the space and resources required to support the local communities, local activists, civil society groups and public sector workers to all be involved in taking the lead in these developments?
3. How can we most practically, effectively and collectively build alternative forms of local power, new and plural forms of common ownership and expand a diversity of cultures of local democratic inclusion in decision-making, accountability and control?
By addressing these questions this enquiry sets out to offer a useful and relevant contribution to debates about how to address the multiplying and interconnected crises - of inequality, democracy and environmental harm - that are wreaking such damage to growing numbers of localities and communities today.