What’s wrong with our democracy?
That’s the question residents are being asked following the formation of Kirklees Council ’s new Democracy Commission.
Councillors from all parties on Kirklees are represented on the commission, which has been formed to see how local democracy can be strengthened to give individuals and communities a bigger say in how they elect their councillors and how council services are run.
The commission, chaired by Dr Andrew Mycock , reader in politics at the University of Huddersfield , is staging a series of roadshows this month to ask people how local democracy can be improved and will draw up their conclusions to share with local and national networks and government ministers.
He said: “Some areas are served by unitary councils like Kirklees, some are served by district and county councils. Some local authorities elect councillors every four years and others three years out of four. In Scotland, councillors are elected by proportional representation while in England it’s first-past-the-post. In many ways, we have a dog’s breakfast democracy.
“We have an opportunity to find out what is best practice and see what we can do to make sure people feel they have the best local council and local democracy.
“We want people’s views and opinions and then it’s a matter of what’s possible. Some things we can do because they are in the control of the council. Some things will require the permission of national government to make changes.”
Clr Cooper said the commission would address issues such as low voter turnout at local elections and public cynicism about “nonsense” consultations on issues such as housing plans.
The other councillors on the commission are Conservatives Andrew Palfreeman and Gemma Wilson, Lib Dem councillor Andrew Marchington and Labour’s Cathy Scott, Eric Firth and Fazila Fadia.
Clr Palfreeman said the EU referendum had shown that the public had strong ideas about how they should be served by their elected representatives and added: “We want to hear from them and, we hope, might be able to encourage a real change in the basis of our democracy.”
The roadshows will be held on Monday, August 15 from 10am to 2pm at Dewsbury Town Hall and from 6pm to 9pm at Batley Town Hall; and on Wednesday, August 24, from 10am to 2pm and 6pm to 9pm at Huddersfield Town Hall.