Test Valley Borough Council is one of only three authorities in the country to be selected to pilot a new programme aimed at innovating democracy.
The programme, run by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, will see the council explore the role that groups of Test Valley residents that reflect the make up of the borough can contribute to big issues facing the council. The authority was selected due to its track record of seeking to transform democracy locally through projects and initiatives such as Romsey Future and Andover Vision.
The groups will be given key facts, figures and statistics as well as evidence from subject matter experts and people with first-hand experience of the problem or issue. They will then consider all of the evidence presented to them and make a recommendation to the council on the best way forward.
The council is initially proposing to focus on the future of its town centres and recycling but is undertaking further work before making a final decision.
Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Councillor Phil North, said: “This is fantastic news for the council and a really great opportunity for us to explore new ways of working with our residents to find solutions to issues and get things done.
“To be one of just three councils in the country to be selected for this is a real achievement. We had some really tough competition from more than 70 local authorities but we have worked hard over the past few years to involve our communities in shaping their futures. Indeed, our strong track record in this area was recognised in the Local Government Authority peer review last October and it was the chance to build on this foundation helped us to stand out from the crowd.
“We have initially chosen to focus on town centres and recycling given their prominence in the council’s new Corporate Plan, but our interest extends much further than this as we are keen to explore whether we could use this methodology as part of our wider approach to engaging with residents.
“This is a chance for us to work with organisations at the forefront of innovation in democracy and for other local authorities to learn from Test Valley’s experience as a national pathfinder.”
The council has been granted £60k to trial the assemblies and will receive support from a number of consultant organisations including the Democratic Society, the Royal Society of Arts, My Society and Involve.
The pilot will run for around 12 months.