Assemblies for Democracy Manchester held a first working session on April 18, at Friends Meeting House. Below are short summaries of the feedback from the working groups.
Discussed issues of democratic decision-making and democracy in the workplace.
- Principles for democracy:
- Instant recall of elected delegates.
- Decentralisation – decision-making as close as possible to the people.
- Electoral reform.
- Democracy in the workplace:
- Not only workers involved in running companies but all those stakeholders affected particularly when a company has a big impact in an area
- Profit-sharing in companies
- A fixed wage ratio
- Reduced working hours
- We need a Constitutional Convention – perhaps made up of 1/3rd MPs and the rest from a random sortation – and the outcomes sent to referendum.
- A forum, probably on-line, where new ideas can be brought forward and discussed.
- All those who are campaigning against things should use the Assemblies for Democracy as the place where they come together to work on what they are for, and how to bring about change.
How to get people involved in democracy:
- We need creative spaces for community development – a public space, offer tea, engage people in conversation and find out what matters to them. Or invite people to your home and have a meaningful conversation about the big issues. Start to engage at local level; and find a way to feedback to national level.
- Collaboration with other groups, banding together and using social media to bring us together.
- The current voting system is completely unacceptable; we need proportional representation and where you vote for individual candidates.
- Push for something that is more acceptable to politicians; try to agitate in local government where sometimes parties would benefit from a better system.
- Participatory democracy – the need for more formal right to participate.
- Extend decision-making beyond politicians for example people’s assemblies at every level.
- Assemblies would feed into decision-making with a legal role, not just empty consultation.
- Formal right for interest groups to have an input to decisions that affect their area of interest.
- Digital discussion platforms that feed into both elected chambers.
- Right and means to propose new legislation and to remove politicians, if the public lose confidence in them.
Focused on Devo-Manc
- Devo Manc – fast-tracked and imposed – the biggest change to local government in Manchester’s history. Decision taking without any consultation with the people.
- Need to find a way to bridge the information gap – 80 to 90 per cent of a sample of people we spoke to didn’t even know it was happening.
- Existing campaign, citizen’s grass roots Manchester Citizens Referendum Campaign – calling for devolution by consent and not by diktat – through a referendum.
- Call a citizen’s convention to include all the issues that have been reported here – electoral reform, codification of rights etc.
Focused on money
- Money: One per cent of publicly available money into a participatory budgeting process. Pupils to decide one to spend one per cent. Can be tokenistic but a start and something we can campaign on locally and nationally.
- Budgeting, economy and decision-making over money should be taught in schools.
- Encourage and support local cooperatives small businesses and sharing projects to give local people more control of services in their areas.
- B of E should be the only bank to create money but local currencies can also be used. More influence on how money managed locally and nationally. Set up a Positive Money Manchester group – a sign-up sheet was available.
How to develop Assemblies for Democracy to bring about change
- An urgent need for a citizen-led constitutional debate about what kind of system we want and we should work with many groups who are looking at this issues.
- Assemblies for Democracy need to become the spaces where we DO democracy. Not about focusing on our differences, or even seeking consensus, but about working on those things we have in common. Assemblies must unite those who believe that it is still possible to bring about reforms through campaigning within the existing system and those who believe a more fundamental change is needed.
- Agreed there is a need to nurture face-to-face assemblies where people come together. But we also need to develop the role of digital technology. Surveillance has a chilling effect on democracy but at the same time open source software is a very liberating thing. We support getting a group together to look at the development of an open source platform for the A for D project.