Communities in control

A few months back, I made the suggestion that a Left, anti-establishment politics might be one that increased community participation in the governance of Government provided services, among other things. Timely then, that Lambeth Council in the UK launches a program along these exact lines.

Reading my original article last November, some readers may have noticed the rhetorical parallels with the UK Government’s ‘Big Society’ approach to Government services. Of course, being a Tory Government, Big Society means out of the Government’s hands. By extension, it is an excuse to privatise and de-fund much of the welfare system.

The appropriate Left approach, as I perceive it, would be for the Government to remain as service provider of last resort, commit to properly funding the services and assist the sector with localised demographic data and other research to assist service planning. Not Government hands-off, but Government ceding direct control of the services and allowing communities a more active role in governance beyond occasional voting.

And it does not mean outsourcing to large, religious, corporatised not-for-profit agencies, whose management structure, governance and structure often create the same incentives as those faced by for-profit providers.

It would be great to see an Australian local council attempt something similar. Particularly in NSW, where a counterpoint to the incoming conservative State Government could become vital.


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