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14 December, 2010

Government to put greater emphasis on active citizenship

The UK government yesterday confirmed its commitment to exercising the public's skills in active citizenship.

Launching the new Localism Bill, which will give members of the public more power to hold public decisions to account, the government pledged 'a radical shift of power from the centralised state to local communities'.

In their supporting document 'Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide', Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Minister of State for Decentralisation Greg Clark say:

'The Big Society is what happens whenever people work together for the common good. It is about achieving our collective goals in ways that are more diverse, more local and more personal'.

To achieve this they intend to devolve power, money and knowledge to 'those best placed to find the best solutions to local needs: elected local representatives, frontline public service professionals, social enterprises, charities, co-ops, community groups, neighbourhoods and individuals'.

Central to the strategy is a continued commitment to releasing public data for the public to use:

'Public access to public data provides the evidence base for public pressure and action, both on the part of those proposing new ways to deliver services and on the part of service users thus enabled to make an informed choice ... there can be no local innovation without local control of resources. Nor can local decision-making succeed without access to the government data on which informed judgement depends'.

This new emphasis on citizens to scrutinise public services, whoever might be providing them, brings an exciting challenge for citizenship education: increased amounts of information need to be processed critically, in new and evolving ways, and people need the skills and competencies to do so effectively.


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