Category Archives: Local authorities

Local Climate Strategies

Element Descriptor

Local climate policy is usually full of nice sounding words with no real delivery mechanisms behind it. Being able to understand that, and explain the causes, consequences and remedies for this emptiness is essential. If you can’t do all of that, succinctly, why are you even bothering? Seriously?

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You know the recent history of climate policy, the headline goals and the current performance of your local authority. The big sources of carbon locally, what is – and could – be done about them. You understand the basic structure of the policymaking apparatusYou have a reasonable grasp on the entire history of climate policy making and (lack of ) implementation in your town/city. You can explain both the trail of broken promises and memory-holed documents, and also the reasons for these failures, and what could still, at this late stage, be done to make the response less inadequateYou have a thorough and detailed grasp of the entire sorry history of climate policy shiny promises, from the year dot. You know why each hype cycle came undone, and can see the patterns, and the influence of local political and policy factors, but also the influence of national and international factors. You know where the bodies are buried, and can spot a silence at fifty paces. You can anticipate what nonsense will be floated in the coming months, and explain why it is nonsense. You can’t change anything though, because this is, after all, Groundhog Day all over again…Your face graces a dartboard in the Town Hall, because of your history of being willing and able to call bullshit on whatever smoke and mirrors is being perpetrated now by officials and come-and-go political actors. You never have to look up a Three Letter Acronym, and you can see the path dependencies and lock-in of today- and tomorrow’s policies. You even, on your good days, can explain how other local authorities have done it better elsewhere for the same/less money.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

The causes of this being done badly is that climate policy has done badly: circular there isn’it? So the documents are out of date. They baffled you in bullshit. They deliberately neglect to mention that this is the third or fourth go round on this rodeo, and that nothing got done the last time, nothing’s gonna get done this time and there’s just an overwhelming stench of failure.

So you have to battle through the feel-good propaganda and the marketing campaigns because that’s mostly what local climate policy seems to be. If you don’t do that, you will be endlessly surprised. It will be Groundhog Day every day. And you run around playing “whack-a-mole”. exhausting yourself other people not seeing the Bigger, Longer patterns. Most councils will probably have a 20 plus year history of environment policy. Many of them got exercised 10 years ago, at the latest in the run up to Copenhagen.

This history has been memory-holed, but it can be retrieved. We have the internet, we have newspaper archives, the ability to track down and interview older councillors, activists.

So if you want to understand local climate policy, you’re going to need a historical overview, you’re going to need a theoretical overview that will probably be around placemaking and the sustainability fix and all of that good stuff. But at the same time that you understand climate policy, you’re really I can’t emphasise this enough. You are going to need other elements in the toolkit. You are going to need bureaucrats and their tactics, morale maintenance at an individual and collective level, and you’re going to need abyss-staring at expert or ninja level.

Because this really is the bleakest element that you can imagine. We can’t even get this right at a local level.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources

Local authority structures

Element Descriptor

Local authorities are oddly opaque. It’s almost as if they don’t want the voters to know how they function and how they can be influenced. Crazy, huh? Without that knowledge though, success, however defined, is extremely unlikely.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You can explain the basic political structure of your local authority, and the different types of role elected councillors fulfill. You have a basic grasp on the officers too, and the decision making processYou have a detailed and historically formed (‘they used to do it like that, now they do it like this) view of the local authority, its culture, the differences between the official set up and what ACTUALLY goes on.You know the official story, the real story, where the bodies are buried, how the last reorganisation consolidated the power of THIS faction over that one, how the power games are played, who is good at them and what games are on the horizon.After an hour in your presence, people fundamentally ‘ get it’, now and forever – the scales fall from their eyes, they understand a panel from a subgroup from a regulatory committee from a scrutiny committee, a directorate from a cold steel rail. For all the good it will do them.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

This is something that most activist groups seem to have a very shaky grasp on. And I would say this is partly because councils are so badly reported in the national  press. And not much better reported in the local press, though you do get obviously more detail. So people just aren’t used to thinking about how their local authority works. And you can’t pick it up by osmosis in the same way that you kind of sort of do with watching Channel Four news or reading the Guardian or whatever. It’s a bit like climate policy in that way. You might slowly gradually pick up a sense by reading mass media, but for the national but you ain’t gonna do it for the local.

Also local authorities, I think, call me the Mad Conspiracy Theorist deliberately bad at explaining how they are supposed to work, let alone how they do work, and how citizens might be involved as more than just cheerleaders. So it’s very hard to find this information.

The consequences of not knowing how local authority structures work in both the official story and the real story is you have no chance of influencing them you’re stumbling around blindly. So the solution is, figure out, do the spade work to find out how they’re supposed to work. Then talk to activists, current councillors, ex-councillors, journalists, there are people around who will tell you how these things really work. Then you could set to work making it easier for other people to understand how local authorities do and don’t work, and actually try changing it (you don’t have to take this crap).

Development Resources

More to follow on this, but for now, here’s a great graphic Solvi did about Manchester City Council.

Assessment Resources