Participatory democracy in Barnsley?

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Just got home from a really interesting day at the Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge near Huddersfield discussing ‘Flat-cap democracy’.  I know I’ve had a good day when I come home from something and my head hurts!  So many good ideas which I’m going to have to put to pen and paper and eventually share with you all to hopefully begin the genesis of a similar movement in Penistone and Barnsley.

The day got its name from the book FlatPack Democracy which depicts the creation and development of the Independents for Frome, a group of people who eventually (in May 2015) won 17 out of 17 seats on Frome Town Council in Somerset.  It is a fascinating book and you can buy your own copy from the website by clicking this link.  The day was organised by Paul Salveson a local activist and Yorkshire First parliamentary candidate for Colne Valley.  As well as Paul, the guest speakers were Cllr Jean Boulton, one of the 17 Frome Town Councillors and Cllr Edgar Holroyd-Doveton who is a Meltham Town Councillor and sits on Kirklees MBC representing Holme Valley North for the Valley Independents.

Both main speakers outlined how they had played a part in developing a different type of democracy in their areas, a type that could be described as bottom up participatory democracy.  This type of democracy flies in the face of the tribal party politics we’ve become used to and incredibly disappointed by.  Clearly the main parties will do everything they can to strangle this sort of democracy where groups of people who want to improve their communities get together with plenty of ideas (sometimes diverging ones) but without the dogma and the whipping that destroys real democracy and sanitises debate in town halls across the country as well in parliament.

This is something I really want to play a part in within Penistone and Barnsley.  Just a few years ago the Barnsley Independents almost deprived the Labour party of an overall majority within Barnsley and came within 1 seat of taking control of the council.  Unfortunately their presence in the council chamber has reduced to just 4 seats.  I want to help develop something within Penistone and its surrounding area and maybe stretching out into Barnsley and hopefully involving the Barnsley Independents, Yorkshire First and other independent minded people in and around the area that could achieve what the Frome and Valley Independents have and are achieving – freeing Barnsley from its one party fiefdom status, stripping away dogma and whips and replacing it with open, transparent participatory democracy.

So many ideas… where’s my piece of paper so I can start planning?  Keep watching folks – this is the start of something wonderful…. I hope!

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Wayne Chadburn

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