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Is it time for a Citizen’s Assembly in Bristol? 

by Ben Stephenson, Bristol Urban Forum

Next year, the city moves from a Mayoral to a Committee system. What that system will look like isn’t clear at the moment, but city decision-making is always improved by involving local people. This can be introduced in Bristol in the form of a permanent Citizen’s Assembly. 

Like other groups in Bristol, we would like to see participatory democracy in the form of a rolling group of randomly selected local residents that are paid a small fee to make evidence-based, non-binding recommendations to the Council on some of the problems the city faces. This will improve the effectiveness of Bristol’s democratic processes and help to reconnect people to civic life at a time when many are suffering from increasingly damaging social isolation. 

The Bristol Urban Forum has been aiming to show that Bristol’s citizens can bring real value to deliberation on a range of topics affecting the city. We hope to demonstrate that well-designed, interactive community participation can produce valuable policy ideas and new ways of thinking about Bristol and these will be published in our ‘place manifesto’ next year. 

The Forum’s focus is on listening to people’s personal experience of the city, and on learning from other cities to make recommendations that are positive and realistic. We are one of a number of groups in Bristol with similar ambitions.

Bristol has run successful experiments with Citizen’s Assemblies in the past, and as a progressive city, we can and should be an exemplar for other UK cities to learn from. 

The next Bristol Urban Forum event will invite Bristolians to think about Bristol at night – how the night time economy can be supported, how night workers can get access to services, who the city does and doesn’t serve at night. It takes place at Sparks,  Broadmead on Saturday 16th December, 1pm-3pm. Take a break from Christmas shopping, comeand get involved - everyone’s welcome.

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