Juries made up of citizens could be given the final say over key decisions in their areas.
Ministers have today announced plans to pilot “creative ways” for residents to get more involved in democratic processes.
“This could include Citizens’ Juries or mass participation in decision-making on community issues via an online poll or app,” the government said.
It wants to trial these methods in six places with a particular focus on getting juries to look at planning applications.
“Many people feel disenfranchised and disempowered, and the government is keen to find new ways to give people back a sense of control over their communities’ future,” said the Civil Society Strategy, published today.
It later added: “Participatory democracy methods, such as Citizens’ Juries, can make a profound difference to people’s lives: evidence shows that enabling people to participate in the decisions that affect them improves people’s confidence in dealing with local issues, builds bridges between citizens and the government, fosters more engagement, and increases social capital. It also increases people’s understanding of how decisions are taken, and leads to authorities making better decisions and developing more effective solutions to issues as a broader range of expertise can be tapped into to solve public issues.”
Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said: “Communities are socially and economically stronger, more confident and integrated where people have a real say over the decisions that matter most to them in their local area, including how local services are provided, facilities are used and how their neighbourhood is developing.
“Government will work with civil society to ensure that community voices are heard, valued and produce change so that no community is left behind.”
On the prospect of areas gaining more control of their affairs, the strategy said: “The government wishes to go further [than what it has done in the past] and devolve more power to community groups and parishes.”
However, the document did not outline what powers would be devolved from government but instead set out what could be devolved from councils to parishes and community groups.
The strategy proposed developing “local charters” which would set out respective responsibilities between councils and parishes and community. The document added: “This could include joint service delivery or the transfer of service delivery responsibilities to local councils, parishes or community groups, the transfer of borough council assets to local councils, or from councils to parishes, and the opportunity for councils or parishes to ‘cluster’, that is to form a consortium with sufficient scale to commission or deliver larger service functions.”