On the recent charm offensive for drivers, government said that it would consult on extending fines for repairs which run into weekends and increasing levels of fixed penalty notices.

However, the most interesting announcement was a £1.1bn endowment-style fund for a number of “overlooked” towns (£20m each).  In particular, this caught our eye: –

  • Set up a Town Board to bring together community leaders, employers, local authorities, and the local MP, to deliver the Long-Term Plan for their town and put it to local people for consultation.

In principle this is great but wouldn’t it have been better to empower the wider community in the formation of ideas, pre-consultation style?   Some might even call it co-creation.  The problem with Town Boards is that they do not represent the silent majority very well – each of the identified members have their own agendas and the resulting plans are likely to be too far progressed for consultation.

So, for some inspiration:-

Cambridge City Council have used an online platform to invite ideas for projects that will enhance large areas of the city for their Environmental Improvement Programme.  LB Newham have done the same with their People Powered Places Programme.

If we’re going to move ahead with citizen engagement then we need to move beyond a survey.  £20m will not stretch far but there is scope for investing in some engagement technology to make sure that the impact of this fund is sustainable for the people who have also feel overlooked.