In our full report, “Growing a stronger local democracy, from the ground up“, published on Friday 30th June 2017, we have made these 48 recommendations about the future of our local democracy…
Active citizens in civic society
Kirklees Council should make Active Citizenship a shared strategic priority and use this as a basis for developing a new democratic relationship between Kirklees citizens and the state.
Kirklees Council should ensure that schools play a central role as local democratic hubs as part of the delivery of an Active Citizens Strategy. This should involve designing (and putting into practice) a range of approaches which will create pathways for young citizens to become involved in civic society, including raising awareness about being a councillor. These should include:
- Designing local democracy resources for Kirklees schools to be used in the context of civic education.
- Strengthening the links between local councillors and the schools in their wards through programmed “school surgeries” as part of citizenship education.
- Working with the National Citizen Service to develop a mentoring scheme, to be piloted in Kirklees.
- Working with the Local Government Association (LGA) to develop a young councillors apprenticeship scheme, to be piloted in Kirklees.
- Working with the University of Huddersfield and local colleges to develop a structured approach to work placement.
- Developing a mentoring scheme between Kirklees Councillors and Kirklees Youth Councillors.
Kirklees Council should work with local businesses to develop the idea of “Business Citizenship” as part of delivering an Active Citizens Strategy with our partners.
Kirklees Council should develop a strategic approach to working with the local media, one that seeks to develop a shared responsibility and understanding of the contributions that the media can make to nurturing local civic society.
We should clarify the roles and relationships of MPs and local councillors in the context of Active Citizenship and arrange Constituency Contact Meetings annually to discuss key strategic issues for the area.
Local democracy in a networked society
Kirklees Council should review our approach to creating and sharing democratic content. This should involve exploring different and innovative ways of developing content to facilitate dialogue and engagement before, during and after the formal decision-making process.
Working with key providers, Kirklees Council should develop a democratic digital literacy pilot as part of a wider civic education programme for young citizens.
Kirklees Council should support all our councillors to understand and embrace digital technology. Digital literacy should be a core expectation of the councillor role. It should be part of new councillor induction and councillor development, so that we support councillors in developing their digital skills and confidence, and enable them to play an active part in explaining our decision-making processes to our citizens. Commission members should pilot this approach.
Kirklees Council should provide our councillors with a live social media audit that provides details of social media use, online networks and connectivity for the ward they represent.
Kirklees Council should provide our councillors with the appropriate IT hardware that they need to be effective in their role.
Working with key partners and providers, Kirklees Council should use the learning from international examples to develop an approach for blending online and off-line engagement processes, as part of strategic planning, policy making and decision-making. This should form part of a pilot that will explore innovative approaches to planning and priority setting in a particular area of Kirklees.
Kirklees Council should use the evidence gathered by the Democracy Commission to re-define the role profile for Kirklees councillors, so that this reflects the changing and long term expectations and needs of the role. The revised profile should include core expectations, linked to ongoing performance. These should be used to demonstrate the impact that councillors are having, particularly in their wards.
Kirklees Council should make performance evidence about what councillors do available to the public, in an easy-to-digest format.
Kirklees Council should promote the role of councillor to help Kirklees citizens understand the role and to encourage citizens to come forward and stand as councillors. We should positively promote the councillor role based on the real life experiences of our councillors, and demonstrate how being a councillor can enrich a person’s life.
Kirklees Council should promote the role of councillors to staff members in a structured and ongoing way, as part of wider cultural changes both with the council and in our communities. Our staff should understand the importance of the councillor role and how it is an invaluable asset as part of changing and redesigning services.
The Local Government Association (LGA) should develop a core national framework for councillors’ allowances, which councils can use now as a basis for determining the rates of allowances locally.
The Kirklees Members Allowances Independent Review Panel (MAIRP) should consider linking annual changes in the rate of councillors’ allowances to the pay rate for local government officers.
National government should revisit the legislation relating to councillors allowances, in light of the increased expectations now placed on the role and the tensions associated with the current approach to determining allowances.
National government, in the context of corporate social responsibility, should address the real challenges faced by councillors who are employed.
Kirklees Council should redesign support for councillors in a way that has a greater focus on their wards. This should enable councillors to provide better support for communities in developing effective facilities, programmes and social networks to improve people’s quality of life.
Kirklees Council should provide timely information and intelligence at a ward and neighbourhood level to support councillors and communities in working effectively.
Kirklees Council should ensure that councillors have the correct tools to carry out the changing councillor role. This involves:
- Building new councillor induction around the core expectations set out in the revised role profile. This should be compulsory for all new councillors but should also be open to all councillors.
- Ensuring that any councillors who hold a position of special responsibility are fully briefed about the role, the expectations and the core knowledge required to effectively carry it out.
- Implementing the findings of the councillor group who are currently looking at IT provision for councillors.
Political groups (and in particular Group Leaders and Group Business Managers) should be responsible for the personal development of their members beyond what Kirklees Council can support or provide.
Kirklees Council should carry out a full review of our governance and decision-making arrangements. The review should be based on the issues and core design principles that are set out in this report.
Kirklees Council should revisit our approach to consultation. We should place a greater emphasis on timely, selective citizen engagement as part of the policy development and decision-making process. We should test this on a pilot basis to begin with, and consider models of good practice from elsewhere.
Kirklees Council, in partnership with key providers, should develop a set of democratic content standards which should be used as a basis for all content that we produce and publish as part of decision-making. These should include using clear language, helping people to understand what point we’re at on the decision-making journey and making sure that our content is based on citizens’ needs.
Kirklees Council, working with political group leaders, should develop video narratives in advance of a significant issue being discussed and decided, followed by similar narratives once a decision has been taken. This should include independent reporting from citizen journalists.
Kirklees Council should organise quarterly question time events involving all group leaders. The content and agenda for these events will be set by the citizens of Kirklees. The events will be broadcast and allow the facility for questions to be taken online as well as in person.
Kirklees Council should develop online and off-line interpretive information for the public relating to all of our public meetings. Such information can be used at meetings but can also be part of wider civic awareness about the council and our democratic processes.
Kirklees Council should now take the opportunity to fully explore and implement the full capability of our webcasting technology, beyond purely broadcasting meetings. Taking advantage of the interactive technology that currently exists should be a priority.
Kirklees Council should continue to support the innovative approaches we have developed to electoral outreach work as a means of ensuring that registration levels are maintained and continue to rise beyond the period of central government funding for Individual Electoral Registration (IER).
National government should amend legislation to introduce the compulsory registration of young people at the age of 16.
Kirklees Council should work collaboratively with schools to develop an optional local approach to registering young people at the age of 16.
Kirklees Council should work with the University of Huddersfield and local colleges to integrate electoral registration as part of the existing student registration process.
National government should lower the voting age to 16 and agree that such arrangements be piloted in Kirklees in order to fully evaluate the benefits and implications.
Kirklees Council should work in partnership with Democracy Club to pilot the ways in which data can be used to increase voter awareness and engagement. The learning should be used to develop a national standard that all councils should aspire to achieving.
Kirklees Council should improve access to voter information by making polling districts and polling station data available to Democracy Club, in a format that meets their GoldPlus technical standard, in addition to sharing other essential elections data in recommended formats (candidates and election results).
All schools in Kirklees should make their premises available to be used as a polling station on the day of an election.
National government should continue to explore all options (for example, online voting, early or weekend voting and registration on polling day) to increase voter registration, accessibility and turnout.
National government should consider the importance of local democracy when it is planning and legislating in respect of the timing and sequencing of elections. Local elections are important events and should be recognised as such. We do not wish to see a further dilution of local democracy.
National government and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority should plan and sequence Mayoral elections for the region in a way that does not have a negative impact on local democracy.
National government should provide clearer information about the purpose of (and processes for) regional devolution. This should:
- Be clear about the outcomes that national government is seeking to achieve through regional devolution.
- Provide greater clarity about the role, responsibilities and expectations of an Elected Mayor.
- Provide greater clarity in terms of the power and responsibilities that exist at the relevant tiers of governance (region, district and local).This should involve more transparency about financial issues.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority should improve the quality and flow of information in order to help citizens and local councillors understand (and have better awareness of) regional issues and their relevance. This should include improving the way in which its democratic content is produced, published and communicated.
Kirklees Council should review and improve the ways in which we support senior councillors to carry out their role in the context of the wider region. This should involve improving the information flow, in both directions, between the City Region and local areas. We should also make sure that all our councillors receive timely information about the wider regional devolution agenda.
Kirklees Council should engage with local citizens to address the issue of local identity. Local devolution and governance are an ongoing challenge. We should be clearer about our local identity so that we can make a strong and powerful contribution to regional discussions.
Kirklees Council should develop local approaches to strategic planning and priority setting (within different parts of Kirklees), based on the findings of our engagement work with citizens on local identity.
Kirklees Council, together with our partners, should do some pilot work to explore innovative approaches to planning and priority setting in a particular area of Kirklees. This work should make use of some of the successful practice that the Democracy Commission have discovered as part of our work.
Delivering our recommendations
Kirklees Council should make sure that the core principles set out in the “Concluding remarks” section of our report are used as a basis for progressing our recommendations. Specifically these are:
- Adopting a citizen-led approach.
- Being open and transparent and continuing to use the Democracy Commission’s website as a focal point.
- Adopting a partnership approach where relevant.
- Continuing a cross-party, councillor-led way of working.
- Checking and celebrating progress via an annual Local Democracy Summit.
- Retaining experience, knowledge and continuity by giving the Head of Democracy at Kirklees Council the strategic responsibility for delivering our recommendations.