Digital tools and open data could be a facilitator for improving local democracy in H&F

“Politicians don’t listen”
“They are all corrupt”
“They don’t care”
“Nothing ever changes”

These are comments you regularly hear whilst talking with residents.

Citizens disconnect with local politics is driving low resident participation, a mere 38% in H&F voted in the 2014 local elections. Engagement with the democratic process is vital to sustaining a healthy representative democracy. 

A YouGov survey of 2014 suggests that there is a desire for greater participation in the political process. In the survey 7% of the sample felt that they had some involvement in decisions made in Parliament, with over 53% who would like to be involved in some form. This is a significant gap of 46% between the current perceived involvement and the desired involvement. 

Open data and digital tools present significant opportunities to facilitate wider public engagement and improve transparency. However, these opportunities will only succeed if local representatives are prepared to listen to people’s views and take them on board. 

Whilst the tools for open democracy are still in their infancy, there are successful examples internationally. One of the best examples is “Decide” initially launched 2015 in Madrid and subsequently rolled out in several other Spanish cities. “Decide” was launched by local government to encourage citizen engagement in local planning and policymaking; allowing any resident to propose local laws. Decide Madrid has four main functions: proposals and votes for new local laws; debates; participatory budgeting; and consultations.

H&F Liberal democrats believe that it is vital that efforts are made to improve local engagement and that digital technology would help the local council to be more transparent, inclusive, and better able to engage the public with democracy.

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