Is Local Democracy working in Northern Ireland: A citizen’s perspective of Community Planning
Written By Antje Otto
In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities sets out the vision and statutory guidance of community planning. The outcome of community planning is “to deliver more effective local democracy”. This is to be achieved through a process which places “the need of all citizens at the core” (2015)., Consequently, only the views of local citizens can offer insights to the effectiveness of community planning to date and to what extent it’s vision is realised.
The Northern Ireland Open Government Network (NIOGN) is concerned with lobbying for more open, participatory and accountable government and to empower citizens. In November 2018 activists from across Northern Ireland were invited to a round table discussion to reflect on their experiences of involvement in community planning and to discuss if or how local democracy as a result of community planning has improved. Thus, their views as ‘end user’ of public service delivery is the definitive indicator of a successful community planning process. The workshop, attended by 30 participants representing nine out of eleven council areas, provided a forum for engaged citizens to deliberate, to what extent the vision has been realised.
This policy brief summarises the data collected which was captured electronically (full workshop report here.) and analysed with qualitative data software. The emerging key findings have been considered within the current ‘Statutory Guidance For The Operation of Community Planning’ (DofE, 2014, in Local Government Act, section 111). The analysis sought to explore if the guidance and practical delivery of community planning is meeting the overall vision to democratise public services.