In the mainstream media and research seminars, there are mentions to the Big Society and the long-term political consequences of austerity, in the UK and elsewhere. Shrinking public resources seem to become a matter of fact.
Looking for information about public engagement, I came across Sutton’s Future online engagement campaign, to prioritise local government expenditure for the years ahead. I mention this case because I came across it, and because it seems indicative of a wider trend: the London Borough of Sutton does not seem exceptional.
The London Borough of Sutton is to save £31m more till 2019. £43m have already been saved since 2010. This will mean making tough decisions as to which services to downgrade or cut altogether.
I just came across the page on Sutton Borough’s website, Sutton is only one Borough amongst other Boroughs and city councils. How many more local authorities are facing similar drastic cuts in expenditure? This implies big chances ahead, which generate important questions.
Reading about the campaign stirred many questions which likely have no definitive or easy answer. I provide them as reflections, and as a basis for fruitful, constructive, and positive conversations about how to shape the future in attractive ways.
How can the Big Society compensate for cuts in local services? Which types of public-private partnerships can help achieve a sustainable provision of local services, that is equitable and improves the environment?
Which way for innovative social entrepreneurship, where own entreprise is not synonymous with self-employed 80 hour weeks?
Which way for flexible employment opportunities where free time is dedicated to productive informal economies, such urban gardening, DIY collaborative & applied education, and social care? How to involve residents of all walks of life, regardless of background or income, into maintaining the health and attractiveness of their communities?
Which role can Neighbourhood Plans play in Local Plans to initiate sustainable transitions in communities, both locally and across regions?
It is a period of both challenges and opportunities for local involvement and democracy. Nothing is written in stone. Potentiality offers the way to both desirable and less desirable outcomes. The future only holds for us what we can contribute to it, both individually and collectively.