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Principles of Partnership: Local Authorities, Communities and the GDF

i Oct 28th No Comments by

As BEIS and RWM develop a consent-based community partnership framework within the context of radioactive waste management policy, there is a danger of a wheel being reinvented.   There are already multiple initiatives, funded and led by other Whitehall Departments, on enhancing local democracy and increasing community involvement in planning local, sustainable well-being and wealth creation.

We have previously looked at how the Working With Communities policy dovetails with the work of a wide range of local government and civil society organisations, eg:

More recently the New Local Government Network (NLGN) supported by Local Trust published a report based on research about the experiences of residents, volunteers, councillors and officers in Big Local areas.  The report provides new insight into how the relationship between the citizen and the state can be recalibrated in practice — shifting away from a traditional paternalistic role with the council as provider and community as recipient, to one which involves communities themselves playing a more active role.  Such analysis is at the heart of the GDF siting process and Working With Communities policy.

The research summarises five core principles in establishing effective partnerships with communities:

  1. Be inclusive and treat all parties with respect from the start.
  2. Find ways to reflect a changed relationship which clearly set out the roles that different parties play, mutual priorities and areas with some level of flexibility.
  3. Agree how different parties would like to communicate in the future and build this into the relationship from the start.
  4. Seek to develop empathy for each other’s position and be prepared to compromise on certain issues to achieve the best outcomes for the whole.
  5. Foster a shared sense of endeavour by agreeing small actions that can be delivered together to build trust, and then scale up successes incrementally.

These principles are at the very heart of the GDF Working With Communities policy.  As RWM interprets and implements policy and turns it into a practical and workable framework, it needs to engage with and embrace the skills, knowledge and ambitions of those involved in advancing local democracy, local wealth creation, and local well-being.

The problem for the community sector, is that many of these initiatives stall through lack of funding.  The Government have committed to funding the GDF community partnership programme.  This means the GDF programme could become a local democracy laboratory, funding activities from which learning could be applied to other social and policy contexts.

Finding a GDF site depends on suitable geology and a willing community.  There is a risk that by not fully embracing what is already happening on the ground in communities, with a siting process led by technical and procedural considerations rather than community needs and aspirations, that a golden opportunity is missed not only to resolve a major environmental problem (radioactive waste) but also to create a wider socioeconomic and democratic legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

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