Donald Alexander is a Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston Ward.
History of local governments in the UK
- 1950-60-70: post-war era under a Labour government. A lot of money into local government, housing and such things.
- 1980: Thatcher government
- 2008 and following on: there has been an enormous withdrawal of funds.
People who are not politically connected but dependant on those services are struggling to understand why the council no longer has the capacity to serve them as they used to.
It’s not a very devolved country, unlike other European countries. Very centralised in London. People joke that London replaced the Monarchy at a Government level.
Because of shortage of money and an ideology: the idea is to encourage communities, strengthen community groups to relate to us more.
We don’t want to go back to municipal delivery.
Communities should decide what they want and do business with us.
Community groups in each area is a first step. Working class would not tend to form groups that are like middle class.
There 4 basic community groups in Avonmouth. They meet once a month. Councillors train and educate them to the council services and digital tools. They deliver help on planning and to interface with the council.
Tackling with local actions
For instance if we speak about parks.
People who live near the park should get together to discuss the maintenance of the park (play area, furniture, growing wild flowers to pollinate etc). Councillors develop their capacity to do that. They relate to one community ambassador because the council needs to simplify interface.
People can’t call 5 times a day. Who is going to make the decision at the end of the day anyway?
Council has responsibility for health and safety - help with fundraising and consultation. Council would help finding a designer to build that according to safety regulations.
Councillors working on the field
There are 70 councillors in Bristol. My ward is 3 councillors (2 from Labour party and 1 from another party). It works pretty well on Community activities.
Members of Parliament - they receive £80K annum and have 4 members of staff. Councillors - they receive £12K annum and have no staff.
We have to earn our respect.
We have community development people - 2 people who appear occasionally. They work directly for the Council. Tney encourage walking groups for old people for instance - they identify social needs. We have social workers too.
UK has a large charitable sector. Voluntary sector. Voscur centralises the charity organisations. Charities are not locally based.
About consultations and surveys
Consultations suffer from a mixture of channels: digital, paper, face to face. They really depends on the demographic.
People in middle class areas
Result is always skewed –
All answers are from Clifton (because they are the most connected).
The future: community groups
The ideal would be for community groups to be a good interface with people. The would form a joint, collegiate view and bring that to the council.
They’ll already have started the thinking rather than having someone staying home who’s just angry about something.
Some communities are quite small. For an estate of 1000, 8-9 people would show up.
British don’t socialise geographically much. It’s much more based on interests.