STATEMENT OF INTENT
Against a background of unprecedented and interlinked crises of economic, racial, class-based, gender and disability injustice; the culture wars and the rise of the far right; increasingly authoritarian law-making and democratic deficits; climate change; and the ongoing pandemic - Municipal Enquiry exists to collaborate in order 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 local public action for the common good.
Why is this enquiry needed now?
As the UK government shapeshifts around a new agenda for ‘radical’ local reform, debate is heating up between professionals, politicians and grassroots activists about the effectiveness and legitimacy of different approaches to working at community and municipal level.
In this context there's a huge risk 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 and resources for collective discussion and local 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, exclusionary and unjust approaches that have led communities into the current situation – it is important to focus on how people and groups, at the grassroots, are responding to the urgent need for more participatory, just and democratic spaces for discussion, decision-making and public action in local settings.
Municipal Enquiry looks at the roles that local development professionals, community organisers, local government officials, politicians and charitable funders play; focusing on the impacts of unequal relations of power. It addresses these inequalities in local places by analysing how they interact with processes of grassroots action and change, researching and highlighting alternative forms of grassroots, municipal and community power and the alliances, relationships and insitutions needed to support the transition towards more equitable, democratic and just futures.
Municipal Enquiry will involve grassroots activists and practitioners in a collective conversation centring around three questions that urgently need further consideration as part of the current process of developing the ‘new municipalism’ in a UK context:
1. How do we ensure conversations and development work linked to ‘new municipalism’ have the broadest range of voices, aren't dominated by those with the greatest power and that divisions of labour don’t reproduce existing power relationships?
2. What role should those currently recognised as the professionals, experts and politicians take in this democratisation process and what can they do to help create the space and resources required to support local people, campaigners, grassroots groups and workers (including public sector employees) to take more of a lead in these developments?
3. How can we most practically and collectively build alternative forms of local power, including new and more plural forms of common ownership, in order to resist current orthodoxies, address contemporary inequalities and expand the diversity of grassroots groups who participate in decision-making?
By addressing these 3 questions Municipal Enquiry will offer a useful and relevant contribution to the process of collectively addressing the crises which are currently wreaking havoc on localities and communities across the UK.