Bristol is encouraging residents to get more involved in local decision making as the city marks this year’s European Local Democracy Week (10-16 October).
The theme of the week is “Living together in culturally diverse societies: respect, dialogue, interaction”.
Bristol’s City Hall will play a central role as the city joins with local authorities across Europe to promote and encourage participation in democracy at the grassroots level.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “It’s important that I and other politicians listen to the voices of people from all communities in the city, hearing their ideas and responding to help build a more equal city where nobody is left behind. I will be the first person to admit that politics is imperfect. It’s critical that people take hold of their democracy, make their voices heard and participate in the city’s decision making and leadership.
“I want to open up access to local government and increase opportunities for people to take part in the decision making process. This challenge is also on leaders in communities across the city. I want people to step forward to lead with solutions and to work with me, the Council and Councillors in building a city for all.
“That means getting active in supporting communities and neighbourhoods and engaging in conversations about matters that affect people in Bristol. That’s how democracy will be made better and that is what this week aims to promote.”
To mark European Local Democracy Week there will be a number of opportunities for residents to learn more about local democracy in Bristol. These include the launch of a new councillor shadowing scheme, free tours of city hall and local events and exhibitions
The new shadowing scheme will give residents the opportunity to spend time with a councillor and learn more about the role they play. Applications will open on Monday (10 October) for those wanting to express an interest in getting involved, with shadowing placements available from November.
The shadowing opportunities will offer participants the chance to see first-hand the work that councillors do and have time to discuss directly with them their concerns and aspirations for their neighbourhood and the city. Anyone wanting to shadow a councillor should send an email to email@example.com to express their interest.
Councillor Estella Tincknell, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, said: “Democracy is a central part of our national identity. We’ve fought wars, experienced social upheaval and worked over generations to preserve democracy at home and across Europe. I think it’s important that we promote the connection between government and grassroots activity and commemorate the important role democracy plays in our city. As a councillor I am dedicated to being a link between the communities I represent and the Council. I want to share what that means with residents and encourage them to get involved and make sure that the job we do works for the people of Bristol.”
As part of the council’s commitment to improving access to decision making, City Hall will be opening up its doors for free tours of the public first floor where the Mayor, Lord Mayor and Council conduct most of their civic business. Online booking is required at www.bristol.gov.uk/localdemocracy.
A week long temporary exhibition will also be taking place on the first floor of City Hall, featuring fascinating images from the original construction of the building set against its recent renovation.
For those wanting to see local democracy in action there will be a number of public meetings which residents are invited to attend. From Neighbourhood Partnership meetings to Licensing Committee, come and see how decisions that affect everyday life in the city are made.
The week around 15 October has been chosen for holding this event as a tribute to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, opened for signature on that date in 1985.
October is also Black History Month, the annual celebration of African and African-Caribbean culture and history, with a number of events, such as talks, workshops and film screenings taking place all over the city.
To find out more about European Local Democracy Week in Bristol visit the Council website https://www.bristol.gov.uk/how-council-decisions-are-made/local-democracy-week and for a full list of events visit https://www.bristol.gov.uk/how-council-decisions-are-made/events-during-local-democracy-week.
For information on Black History Month and the events in Bristol see the online brochure at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/35148/Bristol+Black+History+Month+programme+2016/fd957d45-5fb7-4d7a-bd4f-ff577a63e2cd