As most of the UK goes to the polls to elect their local politicians many are asking whether it matters? In our deeply centralised system what difference does it make who sits in our local council chambers?
As we collectively face potentially catastrophic climate change, an almost unprecedented cost of living rise that is plunging millions into poverty, and an international stage littered with wars and the rise of extremisms it would be understandable if the electorate chose to stay at home and sit this one out.
But if change is needed, and the urgency of the challenges we face means it is more than ever, then where is it going to come from? Should we wait for global bodies such as the UN, OECD or the machinery of the COP cycles to grind into some sort of accord on the need for a more equitable and sustainable approach to our future wellbeing? Will the national governments led by Johnson, Macron, Biden et al wake up any time soon to the need for a radically different way of working that moves us away from obsessing over the ever expanding growth in consumption that is driving up wealth for the few, poverty for the many and environmental collapse for us all?
All the evidence says clinging onto hope of either of these happening is foolhardy at best.
But what would be different if local government stepped up? If places, from Plymouth to Paris, from Doncaster to Dallas, chose a different path? Towns, cities and regions take a remarkable number of decisions that affect our lives – for better or for worse – setting the compass for how we live, work and interact on a daily basis. If they made those decision based on the impact, not on the growth of GDP but on the growth of the wellbeing of people, of communities and of the planet, could they create an unstoppable momentum, that nations and transnational organisations would find hard to ignore?
Local places have a unique opportunity to lead and to ultimately change the world. Centre for Thriving Places provides the tools, the data, the advice and support to make this easy. Places like the North of Tyne Combined Authority are showing it’s possible to simply decide to use a different set of principles to set their budgets, their strategies and their priorities against. The ripple effects from this decision can ultimately be seen throughout the system – from how we educate our children, to how to value the ‘care’ system, from how we do business to how we design our streets. If the OUTCOME of every choice is aimed squarely at improving lives now and for generations to come then politicians – of every party and at every geography have the power to change the world.
We have to power this week to elect representatives who are prepared to do so. Ask them if they are, and if not why not. We are here to help the courageous ones lead the way to a better future.
Liz Zeidler, CEO, Centre for Thriving Places