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A government report last year on co-production showed citizen involvement in public services to be higher in the UK than in many other European countries considered to be beacons of public service innovation, including Denmark and Germany.

But this is not translating into greater numbers of people feeling able to influence community-based decision-making.

Feeling unable to make a difference locally not only limits citizen participation in community life, it also weakens civic health and the forms of innovation and attachment between people it creates.

A forthcoming RSA Citizen Power report on civic health shows that attempts to strengthen civic health, from community-asset transfer schemes to participatory budgeting, have been undermined by a narrow focus on 'consumer power' as the key driver of public service reform.

Our "age of austerity", signalled by forthcoming cuts to local government, has the potential to substantially weaken the civic health and wellbeing of our society, particularly in the most deprived parts of the country where public services, from Sure Start centres to Drug Action Teams, are a matter of necessity, not choice.

But it also opens up a space for us to re-evaluate what we want from public services and the values they should embody.

This is an extract from an article published in The Guardian. Read the complete article


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