The term "local democracy" may be seen by some seasoned community activists as a contradiction in terms.
Whist they may have a point, whether it is voting in local elections, understanding how the local council makes its decisions, or finding out who the right person to get in touch with is, a good understanding of local democracy will be invaluable if you want to make a difference.
Here is a list of resources to help you get to grips with local democracy.
If you think that we've missed anything, or you would to ask any questions, drop us a line! email@example.com.
The London Borough of Southwark is one of 32 boroughs in the Greater London area and is administered by Southwark council. The council is responsible for running a wide range of services, from cleaning the streets to looking after older people.
It is also notoriously difficult to navigate, with dozens of departments, thousands of staff, and, as we all know, millions of forms!
This guide will help simplify what it does and how the council makes its decisions.
For more information about your local Councillor click here.
Southwark Council has recently revealed that Community Councils will be replaced with the Empowering Communities Programme.
The Empowering Communities Programme takes decision-making out of the town hall, and puts it back into the wards and their communities through local ward meetings.
If you're used to Community Council meetings, the new setup means your address might have moved to a different area. Make sure you're still in the loop with this address finder here.
Local ward meetings
Local ward meetings take place three times a year and bring residents together with their ward Councillors.
Here, you can discuss issues affecting your immediate neighbourhood in a more relaxed and intimate setting.
Your Councillor will take responsibility for the agenda and planning of the meetings. They might also want to include another ward in the meeting if something being discussed goes across two (or more) neighbourhoods.
If you have an idea for the meeting, get in touch with your ward Councillors directly. Find their details here.
As part of the programme, there are five multi-area forums that are based on council ward boundaries (take a look at the image to the right). Each forum will be represented by a Community Champion AKA one of the locally elected Councillors.
The multi-ward forums happen twice a year to funding programmes information, process, and announcement of decisions; including Cleaner Greener Safer, Neighbourhoods Fund, Democracy Fund and the Devolved Highways Budget. They can also be used as an opportunity to talk about things affecting multiple boroughs.
If there's anything you want to address in this meeting, contact your Community Champion or the EC Development Officer: there details are below (under resources).
Southwark Council have commissioned a £20,000 annual fund that residents can apply to hold their own events to address the things that matter to them. You can apply for a share of the pot of £20,000 which is available for applications from the whole of Southwark.
Southwark council has more information about the meetings on their website. On this page you can also find out the contacts for your ward, see detailed ward maps, and learn more about the democracy fund. Find out more here.
To find out when your next meeting is head over to our events page.
Democracies such as the UK elect holders of high office by voting and it is an important that a UK citizen uses the right to vote and influence who those people are because decisions that they take will affect your life.
Some people view voting as an incredibly important way of taking part in the democratic process and holding those in power to account.
Others see it as a complete waste of time - that those in power are all the same and very little change will ever be made by the current political class.
This page outlines the process of voting, how you can vote and the different UK elections you can vote in.