Academics and campaigners launch ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ to debate UK’s constitutional future

Leading academics and the Electoral Reform Society will launch a major democratic project in Parliament this week, ahead of two ground-breaking gatherings to debate Britain’s constitutional future at a local level [1].

The ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ pilot project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) [2], will be launched in the Palace of Westminster on the 16th September. The launch comes ahead of the Assemblies themselves being held in Sheffield and Southampton in October and November.

With the government’s flagship Cities & Local Government Devolution Bill making its way through Parliament, the local Citizens’ Assemblies – which will bring together citizens and politicians over two weekends – are expected to be a crucial and rare opportunity for citizens to engage with the devolution agenda. Participants will be representative of their local area’s demographics.

The launch event marks almost a year after the Scottish referendum, which saw huge citizens’ engagement in an issue central to the UK’s constitution. It also follows major constitutional debates going through the Commons and the Lords, including Lord Purvis’ Constitutional Convention Bill and English Votes for English Laws.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This launch marks the start of a very exciting democratic project to get citizens involved in the democratic future of their cities and indeed the UK. A year on from the Scottish referendum, it’s more vital than ever that the public – particularly in England – have a say on where they think power should lie in Britain.


“These Assemblies could pave the way for a future UK-wide Constitutional Convention, and they are a real opportunity to mould the devolution agenda so that it genuinely involves citizens and puts democracy at the heart.


“This project is the first of its kind – and could set the agenda for future debates on not just local government but the UK’s constitution as a whole. Alongside key legislation going through Parliament, this is a pivotal and innovative process and one to watch.”

Professor Matthew Flinders, Principal Investigator for the project, said:

“This is a huge opportunity to feed the views of the public into the policy-making process and to explore the potential of new democratic methods to reinvigorate British politics.”

The launch event will be held in Committee Room 3 at the Palace of Westminster, 16th September, 15:30-17:00. It is open to journalists, academics, politicians and other interested individuals. To attend please send RSVPs to Edward Molloy, project Nexus Officer – [email protected], 020 3714 4071.

Contact Email:  [email protected]

·         Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for the Citizens’ Assemblies project
·         For immediate release, 14th September 2015
·         For more information on the project, contact Edward Molloy (project Nexus Officer) [email protected] / 0203 714 4071


[1] Launch Event Agenda

Committee Room 3 at the Palace of Westminster, 16th September, 15:30-17:00

Chair: Katie Ghose (Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society)

·         15:30 – Introductory remarks from the Chair, Katie Ghose

·         15:35 – Prof Matt Flinders (Principal Investigator) – overview of the project

·         15:40 – Lord Purvis of Tweed – the Constitutional Convention Bill

·         15:50 – Claudia Chwalisz (Policy Network) – a snapshot of her research into British attitudes towards civic participation and international examples deliberative democracy published in The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy need to change

·         16:00 – Alan Renwick (Academic Director, AssemblyNorth) – description of the workings of the Assemblies

·         16:15 – Discussion

·         17:00 – Finish

[2] The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

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