BLOG: Why a Citizens’ Jury? The story so far

Posted by: Councillors Chris Rowley and Jon Owen

In April 2019, Kendal Town Council declared climate emergency and set up a working group to explore the most effective ways to respond. The group met a number of times in 2019, looking at a range of options.

As a town council, our responsibilities are predominantly about making the town a better place to live. We offer grants to local community groups, we manage Kendal in Bloom and allotments but also comment on planning applications in the Town and instigate and support events, festivals and celebrations.

The working group invited two experts who also happen to live locally to join us: Professors Mike Berners-Lee (climate scientist at Lancaster University plus director of Small World Consulting) and Rebecca Willis (independent researcher in environment & sustainability policy). We wanted their advice on the most effective way for us to take this forward.   Chris Rowley also sought the views of local Global Justice Now and Extinction Rebellion campaigner Andy Mason prior to his sudden and tragic death to look at the possibility of a Jury.

The sum of this advice was that a Citizens Jury was identified as a powerful way for a town council to engage residents in how to respond to the climate emergency.

As it happens, we are lucky enough to have a leading practitioner in deliberative processes like citizens’ juries living right here in Kendal: Peter Bryant, who runs an organisation called Shared Future. We engaged Peter to design and cost a climate citizens’ jury for Kendal.

At this point we knew how much the Jury would cost, so we turned our attention to raising funds. All three tiers of local government – town, district and county council – agreed to make financial contributions, but this still left a shortfall. We turned to crowdfunding to make up the balance, and were delighted to exceed our target. By mid-March we had successfully raised £6,770 from 181 supporters.

Armed with the necessary funds, we were able to kick start the Jury process.

A local Jury complements national and international equivalents which can only be effective if matched by local action. In the same way some local decisions can only work alongside national regulation. Responses to this enormous issue need to be multi-faceted.

We (Chris & Jon) are both really looking forward to seeing the recommendations that the jurors make, and we’re both very keen to ensure that they form a basis for action on this vital issue.

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