This introduction was designed for the Assembly North participants.
Congratulations on becoming a member of Assembly North!
Over the next few weeks, you will get to debate some very important issues to do with how the South Yorkshire area will be governed in the future. The results of your discussions will be closely followed by local politicians and officials in national government, who are currently deciding about new governing arrangements, as well as the local media and other organisations.
There is a second Assembly looking at Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – Assembly South. Together the Assemblies are an important experiment in a new way of doing democracy – asking citizens themselves to discuss and decide on how we should be governed.
We hope you will find this experience valuable and enjoyable.
What are these briefing papers?
These briefing papers are designed to help you get the most out of the Assembly. They give introductions to the issues that you will be discussing. They set out some of the debates and arguments that you will hear during the weekends.
For some of the briefing papers we have also produced short video summaries on the website.
How should I use the briefing papers?
You are welcome to use the briefing papers in whatever way you wish. We will not be setting you any required homework!
We hope you will find it useful to read the papers between the two weekends when Assembly North meets. They might answer questions that you have been confused about. They might refresh your memory of what you heard. They might help you think about the decisions that Assembly North will be making.
Each set of papers starts with a brief introduction that summarises the main themes of the paper. So, if you are pressed for time, you could focus just on these short summaries.
If you have any questions or comments about the papers, you can contact us through the Assembly North Facebook Group. This group is open only to Assembly members, but, if you are not a member, you can still get in touch, through the submission form on our website.
What topics do the briefing papers cover?
The briefing papers are divided into five sets:
- Set 1: Local Government Today. These papers introduce you to the current local government arrangements in the areas of Assembly North and Assembly South. They also outline the system of local government in England as a whole.
- Set 2: Reform Options. These papers introduce three possible alternatives to the current arrangements. The first of these is the reform package that the government is pursuing at the moment. The others present alternative options for reforms.
- Set 3: Building Blocks. These papers look at the building blocks that make up each of the reform packages. We outline three building blocks: what issues are decided at different levels; who is involved in making decisions; and what geographical areas are covered.
- Set 4: Criteria for Judging Options. These papers set out some of the criteria you could use to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the options. We introduce criteria relating to democracy, the quality of public services, the efficiency of public services, prosperity, and well-being.
- Set 5: Background. These papers give you some background information on other issues such as how citizens can participate in politics and how local councils are funded. These aren’t necessarily so central to the discussions in the Assembly, but you might still find them useful.
Why do the papers mention Hampshire as well as Yorkshire?
You might notice that the papers mention Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as well as South Yorkshire. That is because there are two Assemblies: Assembly South is happening at the same time in Southampton.
You can just ignore the materials relating to Hampshire. Or you might find it interesting to see how the issues are being discussed in another part of the country. It’s up to you!