As part of its 'Forging a Future for All' vision, Dudley Council brought together 50 randomly selected people from around the local area to form a citizens' assembly called: the Dudley People's Panel. Participants discussed what communities and Dudley Council can do to make Dudley and Brierley Hill town centres vibrant, welcoming and places to be proud of.
The Citizens' Assembly will be asked to think about and provide recommendations to Dudley Council on two key questions:
What can communities and the council do together to make dudley and brierley hill town centres places that are vibrant, welcoming and somewhere we are proud of? How will we know we are making a difference in: 12 months; 3 years; by 2030?
Across two weekends, participants were given a wide-range of information relating to regeneration plans in Dudley and Brierley Hill, the role of local services, organisations and community groups and lived experience examples from local people. After deliberation, participants developed recommendations on how best the Council can make these two town centres vibrant and welcoming places. The following key areas made up the discussion:
- What is the role of town centres now that shopping habits have changed?
- How people use town centres now and how can we make sure that they survive and thrive in the future?
- What will encourage residents to go into and enjoy town centres?
The recommendations from the citizens' assembly were published in early December 2019.
Background to the Project
This project comes at a time when the role of the town centre has significantly changed. Shoppers everywhere are moving away from town centres, instead using online shopping and out-of-town shopping centres.
The Dudley Citizens' Assembly forms part of the Innovation in Democracy Programme (IiDP) which is jointly delivered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). IiDP seeks to trial the involvement of citizens in decision-making at local government level through innovative models of deliberative democracy.
Each local authority participating in IiDP will have support from the Democracy Support Contractor Consortium made up of Involve, The Democratic Society, mySociety and the RSA. Alongside this, up to £60,000 has been made available to cover the costs of implementing the Citizens' Assemblies and online engagement. The programme is being independently evaluated by Renaisi.
You can find the final report here:
Dudley People's Panel will play a vital role in informing decision-makers about residents' opinions on the challenges and solutions facing Dudley and Brierley Hill town centres. This local, face-to-face participation will ensure residents have a real impact on how the Council develops its policies towards the high street in the future.
The full report of the People's Panel will be presented to Councillors in early 2020. An additional report on 'The Future of Town Centres' will go to Dudley Council's Place Scrutiny Committee in January 2020. Councillors will then use these recommendations to help them decide what to do in the short, medium and long-term to make the borough's town centres vibrant and welcoming places to be.
Learning from this project will be shared with other local authorities who are interested in new forms of citizen participation and practical uses of deliberative democracy.