With central government chasing votes by ‘saving the high street’…
… perhaps local government with a touch of vision can do better…
John Harris reports from Buckfastleigh and Frome:
How to take over your town: the inside story of a local revolution
A quiet revolution has begun in the Devon town of Buckfastleigh. Its compact high street, functional-looking industrial estate and population of 3,300 suggest a place modestly getting on with business. But, while it may go unnoticed by those whooshing past on the A38, or tourists at nearby Buckfast Abbey, there is something happening in Buckfastleigh.
That something is a radical reinvention of the way that power works at a local level, based on a kind of politics that has nothing to do with the traditional party system. And it is authored not in a Whitehall ministry, but in towns, villages and neighbourhoods – where it is having a real impact on some of the services people most care about…
Many of the people inspired by this growing mood of local assertiveness are looking to one town that stands as the crucible of this new movement: Frome, in Somerset (my adopted home town), where a group called Independents for Frome took power in 2011, kicking out the Tories and Liberal Democrats to take all 17 seats on the town council. The group has since introduced a new town hall, a publicly funded food bank, electric charge points for cars and a vehicle-sharing scheme. The group’s modus operandi was turned into a manual for radically changing communities, written by the council’s one-time leader Peter Macfadyen, and titled Flatpack Democracy. Some 4,500 copies have been distributed; a sequel will be published this year…
Here is Harris back in May 2016:
And here are details of the new edition of Flatpack Democracy out this month:
Flatpack Democracy 2.0, published Sept 2019, tells the story of what happened between 2014 and today. It tells how, freed from the shackles of party politics, Independents for Frome swept the board at the local elections of 2015 and 2019. It also draws on the experiences of other places who have gone independent and provides the tools for taking positive action to reclaim local politics.
Flatpack Democracy, published 2014, describes how a group of local residents in Frome, took control of their town council and set about making politics relevant, effective and fun.