SOUTHWARK’S CITIZENS’ JURY FAQ

After years of XRS lobbying, Southwark Council is finally establishing a Citizens’ Jury on the climate crisis. What does that mean? Find out more below.

Citizens’ Assemblies (or, on a smaller scale, Juries) are innovative processes that can empower people, communities and entire countries to make important decisions in a way that is fair and deeply democratic. 

Citizens’ Assemblies are used to address important issues that electoral politics can’t fix on its own. For example, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly broke the deadlock on two controversial issues: same-sex marriage and abortion.

  • Citizens’ Assemblies empower citizens to take the lead and politicians to follow with less fear of political backlash.
  • Citizens’ Assemblies are fair and transparent. Assembly members have an equal chance of being heard. Briefing materials, experts, and other presenters are vetted by diverse stakeholders and shared publicly. This produces informed democratic decisions.
  • Citizens’ Assemblies are especially useful when difficult trade-offs are necessary. For example, experts might propose policies for how to meet a 2025 target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the Assembly could decide which they prefer. They would also consider how to mitigate the impacts of changes on the most vulnerable people.

A full Citizens’ Assembly can consist of around 100 people, whereas a Citizens’ Jury is a smaller group (in this case, 25 people) who come together to learn about, discuss, and make decisions on a particular issue. The group is representative of the local community and is given time to understand an issue, hear from expert witnesses, form opinions and make a series of recommendations.

The process allows enough time for the jury members to fully understand and discuss complex issues. During the sessions, participants will hear from a range of expert commentators on climate change.

Participants have an opportunity to question the commentators, share opinions with each other, to deliberate, challenge each other and ultimately reach a set of recommendations in accordance with the following question:

“What needs to change in Southwark to tackle the emergency of climate change fairly and effectively for people and nature?”

The Jury will take part in 8 sessions (30 hours) of discussion and deliberation – starting in November 2021 and presenting their final recommendations in February 2022.

Southwark Council have commissioned the Jury and will ultimately respond to the recommendations, but the process is being led by a team of independent facilitators from the social enterprise and community interest company Shared Future, who have extensive experience in Citizens’ Jury facilitation.

Shared Future are advised in this process by Southwark’s Oversight Panel, a group that meets separately from the jury, to provide guidance and help shape the process. The role of the Oversight Panel is to:

  1. Ensure that the project design is fair and rigorous
  2. Monitor the process of citizen selection
  3. Agree the main question that the jury will respond to
  4. Input into the discussion of what topics should be considered by citizens in the initial jury sessions
  5. Help identify ‘commentators’ best able to present on these topics
  6. Push for implementation of the jury’s recommendations

The final list of Oversight Panel members (16) is as follows:

  • Councillor Helen Dennis, Cabinet member for the Planning, Sustainable Development and the Climate Emergency – Southwark Council (Labour)
  • Councillor Adele Morris – Southwark Council (Lib Dem)
  • Chris Page, Climate Change Director – Southwark Council
  • Helen Hayes – MP
  • Jack Skillen – Team London Bridge
  • Chris Mikata-Pralat – Community Southwark
  • Sonia Phippard – Lay Chair of Camberwell Deanery
  • Eloise Waldon-Day – Extinction Rebellion Southwark
  • Rachel Segbenu – Southwark Youth Advisor
  • Harpreet Aujla – Southwark Law Centre
  • Jack Lewis – Southwark Group of Tenants Associations (SGTO)
  • Dr Aaron Gillich – Southbank University
  • Prof Obas Ebohon – Southbank University
  • Karrim Jalali – Fossil Free Southwark
  • Chris Green – Citizens Advice Southwark
  • Miles Lewis – Lendlease (non-voting)
  • Rachel Butler – Veolia (non-voting)

XRS has been calling for a Citizen’s Assembly on the climate crisis since we first set up a local branch three years ago. As such, XRS were invited to the Oversight Panel from the start, which provided us the opportunity to give our immediate feedback: that the panel was too heavily swung in favour of council staff, councillors, and major council partners such as Lendlease, a multi-national developer with vested interest in many Southwark projects, and Veolia, a multi-national waste disposal company with the contract for Southwark’s waste.

We emphasised that this process would not be credible if the Oversight Panel did not include any academics with expertise in the climate crisis, more community voices, more voices from the Global South, and more youth voices. We also raised our deep concerns around the serious conflict of interest for multi-billion pound major corporations and emitters – namely, Lendlease and Veolia, in whose benefit it might be to water down the scope and content of what the jury considers – to be on the Oversight Panel for the Jury.

These concerns were addressed by an expansion of the Oversight Panel in line with our suggestions, and the establishment of ‘non-voting member status’ for the two businesses in question.

We also advocated for:

  • A rotating chair, to ensure the Oversight Panel were independent from council decision making (achieved)
  • Minutes to be published of each meeting on the council website (now here) for transparency
  • A clear Terms of Reference for the group (now here in Meeting 1 minutes)
  • An independent evaluation of the Jury process (Shared Future is undertaking this)
  • The compensation for Jury members to reflect London Living Wage (achieved)
  • More diverse commentators and Oversight Panel representation, reflecting our borough (on-going)
  • A clear communications plan for the Jury process, to involve our wider community in this conversation and increase knowledge of climate solutions (on-going)
  • A commitment from Southwark Council to adopting the Jury’s recommendations in full, which is essential to the credibility of the Jury process. In response, the council have given the following commitment:
    • “Southwark Council will implement all recommendations made by the Jury within its capacity and work with all concerned stakeholders to respond to the Jury’s recommendations.”
  • A commitment to continue to engage Jury members beyond February 2022 in accountability mechanisms for delivery of their recommendations (on-going)

 

XRS also played a key role in the framing of the question put to the Jury. After much discussion, the final wording of the question is:

“What needs to change in Southwark to tackle the emergency of climate change fairly and effectively for people and nature?”

It was important to us to include:

  • the potential for broader societal change (now embedded in ‘what needs to change in Southwark’, as opposed to just what is within the council’s current scope)
  • the irrefutable evidence of the climate crisis facing us (now embedded within ‘the emergency of climate change’)
  • the concept of a just transition, and consideration of the trade-offs needed (now embedded within ‘fairly and effectively’)
  • Southwark’s future generations and also the ecological crisis (now embedded within ‘for people and nature’)

The Citizen’s Jury is an example of positive consultation: an independent, resident-led process with time to explore complex issues and advice from subject experts. We hope this process convinces the council to continue with participatory democratic engagement, including on other issues beyond climate.

Having observed a session thus far, the Jury are a representative and dedicated group of Southwark residents, who are already identifying the key concerns on the issue and pushing for on-going accountability from the council to their recommendations. It’s inspiring to see them in action!

  • Local council elections for Southwark takes places in May 2022, meaning the period preventing new council announcements in the lead up to the election comes into effect from March 25th 2022. We are concerned that, as the Jury’s recommendations come out in February 2022, there will be no policy follow-through until past the election, when a potentially new Cabinet is in place. We call on Southwark Council to commit in full to the Jury’s recommendations and lay out their response in advance of March 25th.
  • We are concerned that the council is missing the opportunity for some exciting public communications on this issue. Bringing our wider community along on the journey with the Jury will enhance the process’s credibility and thus acceptance of the recommendations. We know that feedback from the UK’s Citizen’s Assembly was that while 20% of the budget was spent on comms, it was still not considered high enough, as only 40% of the UK public were aware of the process. We are providing urgent suggestions to the council on better communications strategies.
  • The lack of an independent evaluation being embedded into the process and its budget is also a concern. A frequent criticism of the council from community groups is that the council lack a systematic approach to learning from their projects. A Citizens’ Jury is an innovative form of deliberative democracy in the borough – yet despite XRS and Southwark Law Centre repeatedly raising the need for independent evaluation, the only review will be through surveys of participants’ experience, not a full evaluation of the project, its budget, and impact. The council requires this type of evaluation from community groups they give grants to; it should be standard practice for council projects as well.
  • Watch the short presentations from subject experts given to the Jury here
  • Promote the Jury process far and wide within your own networks
  • Read the recommendations in full when they are released in February 2022
  • Hold prospective councillors to account against the recommendations in the 2022 local election!
  • Ask Eloise from XRS any questions you still have at southwarklobbyingxr@gmail.com

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