In 2013 the government set up ‘the working group on citizen engagement’ to examine the best way to get greater involvement of citizens in local government. They recommended the establishment of Public Participation Networks in each county. The report of the working group is available here: Working Group Report on Citizen Engagement.
Since then, guidelines have been issued to each local authority, to help them begin the process of establishing the PPN. The Sligo County Community Forum is working closely with the local authority to set up the PPN and the forum are encouraging their members to join. It is expected that when the PPN is established, it will replace the community forum as a voice for community and voluntary interests in the County.
Framework for Public Participation.
The Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides for the adoption of a Framework for Public Participation in Local Government which will set out the mechanisms by which citizens and communities will be encouraged and supported to participate in the decision – making processes of local authorities. The establishment of the Framework is a reserved function of the local authority and the statutory basis for adoption is set out in Section 127 of the Local Government Act 2001, as amended by Section 46 of the Local Government (Reform) Act 2014.
The Framework will include:
- Participatory mechanisms to facilitate and support communities input into decision making
- Clear and transparent mechanisms for the selection of members of the local community to participate in such participatory mechanisms
- Mechanisms to monitor and evaluate participation by members of the local community
- Mechanisms to provide for accountability of such participants to the local community
- Mechanisms for the provision of information by the local authority to the local community
Working Group on Citizens Engagement in Local Government
In September 2013 the Government established the Working Group on Citizens Engagement in Local Government to make recommendations on more extensive and diverse input by citizens into the decision making at local government level. The Report of the Working Group, published on 28th February 2014, recommends the establishment of a number of new structures to facilitate community engagement in local decision-making.
The working group proposed the establishment of a ‘Public Participation Network (PPN) in each local authority area to enable the public take an active formal role in relevant policy making and oversight committees of the local authority. Following the commencement of section 46 of Local Government Reform Act 2014 on 1st June, local authorities are required to establish PPNs immediately and all community representation on committees of the local authority must be sourced through the PPN. Regulations on the new structures are due to be issued in December 2014.