Two female politicians from different parties have been working together to reboot democracy in Bristol. Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke and Labour Deputy Mayor Asher Craig are leading the ground-breaking new approach of using citizens’ assemblies to help Bristol emerge from lockdown.
Councillor Paula O’Rourke, who proposed the idea in a motion to Full Council in January said:
“Our democracy has never been more in need of a reboot and here in Bristol we are pioneering a new approach. Real democracy is about so much more than just turning out to vote every few years. If we want to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic we must all be involved in how our city recovers.”
“We want to see people from across our city involved in making the decisions that affect their lives, which is why Greens have been campaigning for citizens’ assemblies. A citizens’ assembly will be made up of a mixed group of people picked at random, similar to jury service.”
“The representative sample of about 100 people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicity and social class come together to discuss the most challenging issues we face in Bristol. They will receive a stipend towards the costs of their work and have access to top experts in the area they are debating to help them produce their recommendations for the city’s recovery.”
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Communities and Equalities, who amended the Full Council motion in January on behalf of Mayor Marvin Rees’ administration, said:
“The health and economic impacts of the pandemic have fallen unequally and often hardest on people who already face disadvantage. While the lockdown restrictions have presented citizens with major change and disruption, this has also given people new perspectives on what the future could look like.”
“For far too long the social, racial and economic inequalities that exist in our city have drowned out the voices of the most disadvantaged. We need to break this endless cycle, and ensure that nobody is left behind.”
“The conversations we have started, where everybody is heard, are a crucial step in how we will rebuild a better Bristol. This is a real opportunity for citizens to help propel forward plans to deliver a fairer, healthier and truly sustainable city.”
Covid-19 has caused disruption to the lives and livelihoods of people across Bristol. The first citizens’ assembly will look at the city’s recovery and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink what kind of future we want for Bristol. The new approach follows a motion taken to Full Council, proposed by Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke and strengthened by an amendment (pages 5-9) from Labour Councillor Asher Craig, calling for citizens’ assemblies to be used to reboot democracy in Bristol.
Ahead of the first citizens’ assembly, due to take place in the autumn, the Council has put out a survey called ‘Your City, Our Future‘ to all residents in Bristol. The results of this survey will decide what the citizen’s assembly will focus on. The results will show what changes most citizens agree on and which are more complex so need more discussion by a citizens assembly. The survey aims to reach 5000 citizens to provide crucial input from as many people as possible across Bristol.