Lambeth London Borough Council launched a bid this week to become “Britain’s first-ever cooperative council”, and is using online collaboration tools to promote discussion and debate around the initiative.
In a white paper published today, the council says it plans to ‘empower’ citizens “to design and deliver services and play an active role in their local community”, to “allow the community to take control and find their own solutions to problems,” and to help “communities and individuals take responsibility to help themselves and one another”.
Lambeth is a Labour-run council, but some of these themes chime with the Conservative party’s concept of the ‘big society’, in which citizens take greater responsibilty for local services, partly to compensate for government spending cuts.
“The relationship between citizens and the state is being redefined and that the impending cuts in spending (as a result of the recession) mean that the public sector will have to radically rethink the way in which it designs and delivers public services,” the council’s white paper proclaims. “Our current approach to service delivery will not be fit-for-purpose in future.”
A wiki has been set up to accompany the initiative, which according to the council will allow citizens “to post comments about our ideas and also to give [them] a chance to add [their] thoughts and collaborate with each other".
Lambeth council is also promoting interaction via Facebook and Twitter. The reaction has so far been one of muted enthusiasm. Local blogger Jason Cobb remarked via Twitter that while he was “optimistic for more transparency and accountability” he was also fearful that the cooperative council intiative “may just be a PR move”.